SciFi Weekend: The Handmaid’s Tale Controversial Second Season Finale; Discovery Shows The Enterprise Bridge; Emmy Nominations For Genre Shows; Doctor Who Teaser; HBO Picks Up New Show From Joss Whedon; Sweetbitter Renewed; Downton Abbey Movie Announced

The second season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale was quite controversial. I had mixed feelings when I saw June/Offred decide not to flee to Canada. It was frustrating, and unexpected, that she did not take advantage of this opportunity, but I was also concerned while watching the minutes leading up to this that we might be seeing a replay of the first season finale–June on the verge of escaping and then being dragged back again. At very least I am glad that they wound up doing something different.

The question is whether the surprise ending is believable with what we know about June. We would expect anyone to want to escape that country if possible. Last season, when given the opportunity to try to escape, June attempted to do so.  However, some things are different. She saw her first child, and had to face the question of why she did not try harder to remain with her. She even has information about her daughter, giving her a chance at finding her again. While fighting the system in Gilead appears to be too dangerous to risk, seeing that the Marthas have united to rebel does give more hope.

It might be argued that she was attempting to escape when she tried to get the car earlier in the season, however we don’t really know that her plan was to try to escape to Canada. She might have planned to try to free her first daughter first. Plus at that time she was pregnant, and escaping Gilead with her soon to be born daughter would be motivation to try to escape. At the end of the second season she had the opportunity to both send her second daughter to safety and remain behind to fight.

Ultimately whether I accept the conclusion of the second season as a realistic choice will depend upon what we learn was in June’s head in the time and what she winds up doing. After two bleak seasons, I hope that the third season does show further rebellion. Of course with this show there is no guarantee of success. There is the danger that June winds up being captured and in an even worse situation, or even that the entire series ultimately ends with the execution of the characters in Gilead who we care about. Hopefully we will get a more optimistic ending than that.

There are also questions about several other characters. Will Emily actually make it to Canada and, if so, what does she do there. How far will Serena go in opposing the system? Will Aunt Lydia survive her wounds? I bet she will be back. What happens to the relationship between Nick and Commander Waterford now that it is clearer that Nick is involved with the resistance? There must be a limit to how useful Nick’s knowledge of Waterford’s secrets are against a guy cruel enough to have his own wife’s finger cut off for reading the Bible. What will Commander Lawrence do now that we know where his sympathies actually lie? Will the authorities realize that the Marthas were rebelling, and what action will they take? It will be far easier to have a mass execution of Marthas than of handmaidens (as they threatened at the start of the season).

We have some hints as to the answers in this interview executive producer Bruce Miller had with TV Guide:

Did you know from the beginning that Offred was not going to escape at the end of the season? And did you get push back from anyone else about whether or not she should escape or stay?Bruce Miller: There was incredible amount of push back from me and from everybody else. All we want is for her to get out. So even though storywise you want to do one thing, emotionally all you want is the other answer. So I guess we all wanted her to get out personally. But yeah, I mean, I knew from the middle of Season 1 that this would happen. So because of that, we were working toward this. I mean, once we started to feel the kind of deep vein of regret that Offred was feeling, or June was feeling at the prospect of leaving Hannah behind and how it was tearing her apart, we felt like [that] after she saw her. And after she kinda was faced with the idea of, “I am going to be able to get one child to safety, and now I just have to decide what to do myself.” I don’t think it’s a choice about whether you’re gonna stay behind to try to rescue your child, I think it’s a needto. I wouldn’t be able to leave one of my children behind… When we got to it, it felt very natural to the character. It is an impossible choice but we are faced with those all the time, so it is interesting to see what she does.

Have we seen the last of Emily and baby Nicole or is there more story to tell for those two characters?
Miller: We have not seen the last of Emily and Nicole. I don’t know that we’re gonna see Nicole going to her first prom very soon, or Emily for that matter, but we have not seen the last of them. We’ll follow them on their journey after they leave Offred in the tunnel, in the finale, we will be following them… I think that Nicole is quite a popular young girl. There’s lots of people who want her including a whole country of Gilead if she happens to get out… It’s a huge, huge puzzle piece of our world. It’s June’s child, and just as much as Hannah has been a huge part of our show Nicole’s going to be a huge part of our show whether it’s in influence or whether it’s in corporeal reality with someone holding her in their arms. She is the force to be reckoned with. She is the next generation that they’re all doing all of this for.

Will Bradley Whitford’s character be coming back in Season 3, and what are we gonna learn about him and why he helped Emily escape?
Miller:
 Yes, Bradley’s coming back for Season 3. He was exactly the kind of character we wanted to start building in Season 2. We were hoping his schedule would work out that he could come back for Season 3. I think we’re gonna learn a ton about him. I mean, I think the fact is he’s our Oppenheimer character. The man who designed an atomic bomb and then saw what it could do. I mean, he’s a designer of Gilead, and now he’s seen what it can do. So he is a mass of contradictions and dangers, so you never know what he’s willing to do, what he’s not willing to do. He’s been protecting himself for a very long time. And his adventure to keep himself alive certainly is not always an adventure that’s going to keep the people around him alive. But now that June has crossed paths with him, she’s going to cross paths with him a lot more in Season 3.

What you can tell us about Aunt Lydia and her future? We don’t see her actually die but it looks really bad at the end of the season.
Miller: Aunt Lydia doesn’t die. I don’t think Aunt Lydia can die. I don’t think there are forces in the world strong enough to kill Aunt Lydia. And by extension the incredibly strong, fabulous Ann Dowd, I think is with us for a long, long time as well. Aunt Lydia doesn’t die, she’s transformed by this event. The fact that one of her girls who — [she thinks] that there’s a love between her and her girls — has literally stabbed her in the back. I think that that alters your workplace feelings on a day-to-day basis. You don’t wanna turn your back. So I think that in some ways there’s a lot of possible effects. But I think in her case, it makes her double down that she feels like she just wasn’t strong enough in her discipline. So she, I think, has decided it’s time to get tough.

It was exciting to see Rita take a decisive action in the finale. What can we expect from her character moving forward?
Miller: Amanda Brugel, has really done a remarkable job with Rita. The fact that she’s both incredibly strong and invisible in the house is just, it’s a miracle of acting that she really has made her both a powerful force and you just completely forget that she exists. And I mean, and that’s supposed to be mirroring the way the Waterfords and the people in Gilead just let her fade into the woodwork, on purpose, because that’s the role that she’s supposed to play. But it’s great that she uses it strategically, and so everybody forgets about her, and then all of a sudden she has this freedom to build this network with all the other Marthas. They trade things back and forth, information and cinnamon and cheese and all sorts of stuff. And so they have a life going on there and a resistance network. You know it’s used for other things, black-market things, gossip, but now she’s turning it and using it as a resistance network.

I think she’s gonna have to do some very deft dancing to get around her comeuppance for her complicity in this, and I don’t know whether she will, but she is our representative of this group of women who have been pushed into invisible domestic roles like so many women in real society, in our society. She is, but she is not invisible, and she’s not domestic. She is a woman in full, and you get to see kind of the power that brings to bear. And I think, in [Season 3], we’re going to see some of the results of her coming out of her shell and becoming a little more visible. But I think the key for me is that she is a very smart survivor, and that’s what she’s going to continue to be.

We saw Nick, too, take a stand against Fred (Joseph Fiennes) in the finale to help Offred escape. What are the consequences for that choice are going to look like for him next year?
Miller: Nick did take a stand and impulsively, which is not his best — not a Crayola crayon he does do very often. He’s not an impulsive guy in general. And I thought is was such a kind of a measure of the closeness of his relationship with Fred and how much he was willing to risk… But yes, there will be repercussions for Nick. The interesting thing about Nick and Fred is that power dynamic between the two men and the two positions that they hold. One is kind of outwardly a leader of Gilead, and the other, Nick, is quite a powerful person behind the scenes because he’s a spy, and because he has dirt on people, and because he knows all the good and bad things people are doing, going to Jezebel’s and all those things. So I don’t think it’s a hammer that the commander can bring down so easily on Nick, or would want to…

Is there a happy ending to this story? Is that in any way the end goal or is everything always going to be terrible?
Miller: I think there is a happy ending, and I don’t think everything’s always going to be terrible… I believe in June, and I believe that if The Handmaid’s Tale is the story we’ve decided to tell from this imaginary place of Gilead, if June’s story is the story we tell, we’ve told it because it’s a story of hope. I do feel like every episode where it ends and Offred is alive, June is alive, it’s a huge victory and a story worth telling. To see how someone in this world doesn’t just survive, but in their own way, find ways to live, find ways to actually have a life, have intimacy. She sees her daughter, which she never thought would happen. So all of these things are huge victories for me.

But in terms of an ending, I think this is a story of a woman getting out of bondage. So I think in the end that’s the story, whether she is able to get out herself or whether she’s able to get one or more of her children out, or reunite with her husband. Those are all details, but I think the story is bending, I hope, because it exists, it’s bending towards a happy ending because this account of what happened exists means that somehow some way, June got that account out. That to me sets a story of kind of the triumph of the human spirit and hope.

Miller had more to say about why June stayed in this interview with Deadline:

DEADLINE: I often like to start these at the end, so why does June stay in Gilead at the end of the finale?

MILLER: Because she’s a mother. She has one child who’s going off to safety and one child that’s still here so she stays for her daughter Hannah. Whether she’s going to help her daughter or whether she’s going to try her hardest to injure Gilead, it really comes from two things. One is her mom saying you’re stronger than you think, which is something she realized about herself throughout the season. The other is her daughter saying why didn’t you try harder?

When she finally sees Hannah, Hannah says why didn’t you try harder to find me?

And she’s going to try harder and I think that after having a season where all these things that were seemingly impossible have come to pass I think she’s willing to take a chance. She’s not so willing to leave her eldest daughter behind.

Elisabeth Moss also supported her character’s decision in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

“Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Moss explained her take on the season finale and the game-changing decision for June to stick around in Gilead, saying there are two primary reasons for the development.

“There’s really a couple answers to this, and they are equally important,” she says when asked why June’s decision feels like the right way to end season two. “Hannah is the first one. It’s as simple as that. She cannot leave her daughter there. She doesn’t know if she can get back in if she leaves. What can she do from the outside? She doesn’t know. But here’s what she does know. She just discovered that there’s a legitimate and strong underground network of Marthas working for the resistance. The wives led by Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) just rebelled against the men and government of Gilead. They are starting to resist. And she just saw a commander (Lawrence, played by Bradley Whitford) help his handmaid and her dear friend Emily escape. A commander. How deep does this underground network of resistance go? She knows now she isn’t alone. She doesn’t want to leave Hannah, but when she sees Emily and the commander, she realizes she can get her baby Holly out and stay to try to do the same for Hannah. And she doesn’t have a lot of time to make that decision. She does the riskier thing, which is stay, but she literally cannot leave Hannah in that place.”

(For what it’s worth, Moss weighs in on why June told Emily to refer to Holly as Nicole, the name Serena gave the baby: “It’s a show of love for Serena and a thank you for what Serena did in letting June get her out. It’s June’s baby, but it’s June’s way of acknowledging Serena’s true love for that child.”)

In terms of why June’s decision to stay was the right way for season two to end, Moss says, “She is staying to fight to save all the children of Gilead. It’s bigger than her now. It’s bigger than her and Holly and Hannah. It’s all about the sons and especially daughters of Gilead, and fighting for their lives. Seeing the Martha network and the commander have opened her eyes. She is no longer alone. She has an army, and she’s going to fight back.”

“I don’t want to fight from the outside,” she adds. “I think it would kill June. To feel helpless like that. There are people doing the work that needs to be done in other countries, particularly Canada of course, that we show legislatively and trying to find their families and fighting Gilead in that way. There are very few people who can fight from the inside, and you have to have both. There are very few people who are as smart and experienced with Gilead as June is, who are as connected to a high ranking commander such as Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) or Lawrence, who know the ins and out, who have someone connected like Nick (Max Minghella), who knows that there’s a network of Marthas. She has very particular qualities that make her the one who should lead the resistance. Being in Canada, trying to change things from the outside, would just be extremely frustrating for her. And there’s probably no one who gives less fucks about what she has to do to get her daughter Hannah out than June does.”

The final moment of the season sees June pulling her handmaid hood over her head, more iconically cloaked in Gilead than ever before. And yet, Moss agrees that it signals an end for June’s life as “Offred,” even if it also means the birth of someone new.

“It’s not the June that was captured and brought to Gilead,” she says. “It’s not the June in the flashbacks. It’s a new June. She has become stronger, smarter, braver. She has learned a lot. She has experienced indescribable physical and emotional pain. She has changed forever, and not necessarily for the better, but in a way that she needs to have changed to be able to lead the resistance. She has hardened. She’s gotten very tough. She’s maybe colder. But that’s what she needs to be. She will never lose her humanity, and she will never lose the capacity to love as a mother, but that mother’s love can be the fiercest thing you’ve ever seen.”

Promotional pictures for season two of Star Trek: Discovery are showing the inside of the Enterprise.  The above picture is of Burnham walking onto the bridge of the Enterprise. Sonequa Martin-Green is quoted as saying,  “…we’re really going to be digging into family. A lot of questions are going to be raised; some are going to be answered.” Will that include showing Spock? There has also been a picture released of a Saurian, an alien species first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Star Trek: Discovery, with two nominations, is just one of several genre shows to receive Emmy nominations. Discovery’s nominations are in the categories of  Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup (Series, limited series, movie or special) and Outstanding Sound Editing For A Comedy or Drama (One Hour).

Other Emmy nominations of note include Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black),  for Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Jesse Plemons (Black Mirror: USS Callister) for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie, and multiple nominations for Westworld, Game of ThronesThe Handmaid’s Tale, and The Americans. The full list is available here.

The official teaser for Doctor Who series 11 was released during the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup Final. We got a look at Jodie Whitaker as the Doctor, the Doctor’s new companions, and perhaps a timey wimy way to replenish a pizza box.  From Entertainment Today’s cover story on Doctor Who:

The choice of Whittaker to play the lead role on Doctor Who represents a massive gamble on the part of new showrunner Chris Chibnall — who’d previously cast Whittaker as a grieving mother on his cop drama Broadchurch — and the BBC, which successfully revived the sci-fi series in 2005 following a lengthy hiatus. More than 18 million Doctor Who DVDs have shipped, 12 million action figures have been sold in the 13 years since its relaunch, and in 2013 a 50th-anniversary episode was screened in 94 countries. In the U.S., the show has become the flagship series for BBC America, which will premiere the new season this fall, simulcasting the first episode so it screens at the same time as in the U.K. There is a lot riding on Whittaker’s ability to make audiences around the world fall in love with a female Doctor, as the actress is well aware.

“There’s no rules, and it’s liberating,” she says. “But it’s equally terrifying.”

EW spent two days on the set of Doctor Who for this week’s cover story, hanging out with Whittaker and the trio of actors who are playing the Doctor’s new companions: Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole. Your writer also spoke with Chibnall who explained why he had made the decision to make the Thirteenth Doctor female once Whittaker’s predecessor, Peter Capaldi, decided to leave the series.

“I just felt the time was right,” said Chibnall. “I think if the show hadn’t done it, we would have been behind the world, and Doctor Who has got to be out front leading the world, and being a great example of all the amazing things that are in the world. So, it wasn’t even a question in my mind.”

Above is a cross over episode I’d love to see (via Doctor Who Today).

HBO has picked up a new series from Joss Whedon. TV Line reports:

The Whedonverse is expanding to HBO.

The premium cabler on Friday gave a series order to Joss Whedon‘s The Nevers, which is described as an “epic science-fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.”

Whedon — who previously toyed with creating a “Victorian female Batman” for the stalled comic book series Twist— will write, direct and executive-produce the HBO drama, as well as serve as showrunner. His previous live-action TV forays include, of course, Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngel and Firefly, as well as Dollhouse and the co-creation of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (where his brother Jed serves as co-showrunner).

Totally non-genre (unless you consider the abundance of shows about someone moving to the big city or restaurant shows a genre), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that STARZ has renewed Sweetbitter for a new season. I won’t say it is must see, but at times shows with short seasons come in handy, sort of as a long movie. The first season is six thirty minute episodes, making it easy to watch in one or two sittings. It was the inclusion of Caitlin Fitzgerald in the cast which caught my attention.

In the historical television genre, a Downton Abbey movie is now official.

SciFi Weekend: Pike and Spock on Discovery; Why The Enterprise Looks Different; Robert Picardo Returns To The Orville; Steven Moffat Fills In Plot Holes In Doctor Who; Legends of Tomorrow; The Arrow; Jessica Jones Renewed; Killing Eve

Anson Mount has been cast to play Captain Christopher Pike on Star Trek: Discovery. We don’t know much of the Enterprise will be seen on Discovery next season, but did get some clues from Jonathan Frakes, who will be directing two episodes next season. Last season he was the first to reveal that Discovery would be going to the Mirror universe. Frakes more recently revealed at the El Paso Comic Con that he will be directing the second episode of season two. The episode will include both Captain Pike and Spock.

The catch is that Spock will appear in a flashback of his childhood years, including a view of Michael Burnham. There is no word about whether an adult Spock will ever appear on Discovery, but the producers have expressed reservations about recasting Spock in past interviews. I suspect that they will be keeping adult Spock off screen, whether or not he is aboard the Enterprise at the time, but it is also possible they are hiding their plans.

We also learned why the Enterprise looked slightly different than the original Enterprise in the season finale of Discovery, to the frustration of some purists. (My review of the season one finale was here). The reasons came down to the changes in ownership rights to Star Trek, requiring these changes.  John Eaves, one of the designers for Discovery, explained the process on Facebook last week:

Back in April of 2017 the task of the Enterprise making an appearance came to be and work was to start right away. The task started with the guideline that the Enterprise for Discovery had to be 25% different otherwise production would have most likely been able to use the original design from the 60’s but that couldn’t happen so we took Jefferies original concepts and with great care tried to be as faithful as possible. We had the advantage of a ten year gap in Trek history to retro the ship a bit with elements that could be removed and replaced somewhere in the time frame of Discovery and the Original series…

The changes between the two enterprises are as follows. The new ship has more TMP struts than TOS struts, the main hull and nacelles are shorter and more plump, the deflector dish now has one antenna vs two, the impulse module is thinner from side to side, the overall ship has a heavier plating detail, and the exterior has a more broader range in lighting and nacelle glow. I am sure there are subtle differences but I have not seen any more than you have to make a more detailed comparison so look at the calendar as concept art and all will be good and hope this quick breakdown helps.

He added in a comment:

After Enterprise, properties of Star Trek ownership changed hands and was divided,, so what was able to cross TV shows up to that point changed and a lot of the crossover was no longer allowed. That is why when JJ’s movie came along everything had to be different. The alternate universe concept was what really made that movie happen in a way as to not cross the new boundaries and give Trek a new footing to continue.

If the recent attempt by CBS to purchase Viacom had been successful, there could have been a resolution of some of the problems caused by this division in ownership rights. Perhaps Vulcan could be saved.

Update: After multiple blogs and media outlets posted similar stories, CBS issued a statement saying that the changes to the Enterprise were for creative and not legal reasons, and that CBS does have the rights to use the original design of the Enterprise.

Also in Star Trek news, Star Trek: Discovery has been nominated for a Peabody Award.  Star Trek: The Next Generation previously won a Peabody in its first season, for the episode The Big Goodbye.

ComicBook.com has a look at Robert Picardo’s return to The Orville during the second season and recaps his appearance during the first season.

Radio Times reports that Steven Moffat has cleared up a few plot holes from Doctor Who in his novelization of The Day of the Doctor. This includes sort of bringing the Peter Cushing movies into cannon. No, he did not add yet another unknown Doctor like the War Doctor. Instead he brought in the movies:

In one of the new novel’s more meta moments, Moffat also explains away one of the greatest canonical issues in Doctor Who history – where, exactly, do the 1960s Peter Cushing films fit in?

For those not in the know, these films (called Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 AD) were a remake of some early William Hartnell Doctor Who stories, starring Star Wars and Hammer horror icon Cushing as a human scientist who actually invented the Tardis (losing the “the” to become just Tardis) and battled alien nasties.

Obviously, Cushing can’t be counted among the official line-up of Doctors, but fondness for the films has led Who fans to keep him in their hearts – and now the new book finally explains his place in the canon.

According to Moffat’s Day of the Doctor adaptation, the Cushing Doctor Who films do exist in the main Whoniverse, with the actor playing a fictionalised version of the real-life Doctor with the blessing of the man himself. The new book shows posters from Cushing’s films actually hanging in the Black Archive, which Moffat has previously said he wanted to do in the episode that aired on TV – plans which were scuppered when the BBC were unable to get the rights to the artwork.

“Seen them? He loves them,” UNIT boss Kate Stewart explains to Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald in the episode when discussing the films.

“He loaned Peter Cushing a waistcoat for the second one, they were great friends. Though we only realised that when Cushing [started] showing up in movies made long after his death.”

That last bit, of course, is a reference to how the late Cushing was included in 2016’s Star Wars prequel Rogue One using cutting-edge CGI – though apparently it was just Tardis trickery instead.

Other questions answered include earlier meetings between River Song and the Doctor and why the stories about the first two Doctors were in black and white.

Legends of Tomorrow co-showrunner Phil Klemmer discussed last week’s season finale with TV Line and gave a hint about next season in a question about Mallus:

TVLINE | What is his agenda? What does he “want” most in the world?
He is a sort of bellwether of bad guys to come in Season 4. Up until this point, we’ve been dealing with earthly and historical bad guys, and we certainly had fun with all of that, but this year we dabbled in the world of the occult, through Damien Darhk and his enterprises. But you know that Constantine is coming onto the show [as a regular] next season, so we want to go deeper, we want Mallus to be used as “the tip of the iceberg.” He is not human, and we want to start playing with the idea that Earth hasn’t always belonged just to our kind.

We want to get into the world of fantastic myths and monsters a bit more. It’s kind of presumptuous for anybody to think they have ownership of this Earth or any part of it. Not to get deep into immigration metaphors, but Mallus is an ancient evil, he doesn’t understand humans and doesn’t understand why we have any claim to controlling this world of ours.

Of course this will work out well with the addition of Matt Ryan (Constantine) to the cast.

Arrow still has a few weeks to go, but I do like the idea of Oliver going more solo as we saw last week (as long as Felicity is still around, of course). Marc Guggenheim discussed the upcoming finale with Entertainment Weekly. ComicBook.com summarized:

“It’s gonna be interesting,” Guggenheim said. “It’s very, you know, I’ve been saying it’s an unconventional kind of finale. It still feels very much like a season finale. When I first started talking about it we hadn’t written the darn thing yet, but now we’ve written it and we’re in prep on it and on Monday we start shooting. And it’s a real game-changer.”

To a certain extent, the season five finale was also a game-changer for the show with Adrian Chase/Prometheus’ (Josh Segarra) end game resulting in Lian Yiu being blown up, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) becoming a single parent after the murder of his son’s mother, as well as setting into motion some of the events this season — Thea (Willa Holland) in a coma, Oliver trying to find a work-life-vigilante balance, and the splintering of Team Arrow. However, what’s coming for the season six finale will go even further and Guggenheim teased that the aftermath of “Lian Yu” as seen in the season six premiere will play a role as they’ve been plotting up to this game-changer from premiere.

“The show fundamentally changes in the finale and I think you’ll see there’s stuff that we were seeding back in the season premiere that finally comes to fruition here in the season finale, so you’ll see that there was a very specific plan to the entire season,” Guggenheim said. “We always knew that this is where we were headed to. So, hopefully in subtle ways have been teasing this all along without you realizing it. My hope is that people are surprised, but also look back and are like oh, that was kind of the only way that they could have ended the season.”

There are also reports that Colton Haynes is returning to Arrow, which is a bit odd after Thea left the show to supposedly go with Roy.

Jessica Jones has officially been renewed for a third season on Netflix.

HBO has renewed Silicon Valley for a sixth season

SciFi Weekend has frequently gone beyond science fiction. At present two of the hottest new shows on are not science fiction, but instead both deal with killers, the reluctant hitman on Barry and the much more enthusiastic assassin played by Jodie Comer on Killing Eve. A discussion with the creator of Killing Eve,  Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and its stars,  Sandra Oh, and Jodie Comer, can be seen at Vulture.

One reason Killing Eve works so well is by the acting job done by Jodie Comer. Collider has an interview with her:

Will we get to know more about why she ended up in this profession?

COMER: Yeah, you do. As the story goes on, you definitely do see a little bit more of an insight into that. As the investigation progresses and they find out more information, you do learn a little bit about her. I don’t think her past excuses what she does, but I think it definitely gives you a little bit more of an understanding, as to who she is and where she’s come from, definitely.

It’s one thing to kill people and it’s another thing entirely to enjoy it, which she seems to do.

COMER: Yeah, absolutely! It’s like a life force for her. I feel like her job gives her purpose, for sure, and she wants to do a good job. She’s had so many conversations with Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), where she’s like, “Did you see what I did?! Did you see how good that was?! Are you impressed with me?! Because I’m impressed with me!” She’s so self-confident. She’s brilliant.

Do you think that will also get her in trouble?

COMER: Yeah, absolutely! I think she become quite careless. Konstantin is certainly in charge of her, and he sees this going on, so she loses a little bit of her independence and she can’t deal with that. Konstantin says, “Listen, you do what you’re told, and you don’t ask any questions.” She doesn’t abide by that, and there are consequences to that. What’s so lovely about their relationship is that he’s the only person who understands her and sees through her games. He’s like a father figure, in a lot of ways. It’s nice to see her actually have what seems to be a genuine relationship with someone, who she may actually care about, maybe.

Do you think she would still kill him, if need be?

COMER: I don’t know. I wouldn’t put anything past her, at this point.

Does she have a moral code? Is there somewhere that she would draw the line?

COMER: First off, I think she puts herself first, so if her life was threatened, then she would absolutely do anything. I think her independence is what’s most important to her, and why that is, you will discover.

How threatened does she feel by being looked into?

COMER: At the beginning, she thinks it’s just a game. She feels invincible. Maybe there’s a realization that they are actually getting information. She doesn’t speak Russian anymore. That’s the part of her life that she wants nothing to do with, and yet it’s getting dragged up by everybody else. That is not something that sits well with her, at all. What she does about it, you’ll have to see.

What does Villanelle think of Eve, and what can we expect from how that dynamic develops?

COMER: Villanelle lives this luxurious life, and I think she’s intrigued at how ordinary Eve is. She lives her life with her husband. The narcissist in Villanelle is like, “This chick wants to know about me? I’m gonna show her!” She wants to make sure that Eve gets to her. She wants to make sure that they meet. It’s a funny relationship. I feel like Villanelle is seeking something from Eve. Nothing material, but spiritually, there’s something. There’s a connection there that they’re both not sure of, but it’s undeniable. It’s there. There is a connection with Eve, on a personal level for Villanelle, because she reminds her of someone who is very close to her, in her past. It brings all of these emotions up.

Above is the official trailer to Killing Eve. At present it is still easy to catch up with both of these shows if you have not seen them. The second episode of Killing Eve airs tonight and the first episode remains available on line. The fourth episode of Barry will be on HBO later tonight, but as episodes are only slightly over thirty minutes it won’t take long to catch up.

SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD and the MCU; Arrow; The Americans Return For Final Season; Hugo Award Nominees; Trish Walker Music Video From Jessica Jones

 

The last two episodes of Agents of SHIELD have been excellent, tying into the events of last season and fitting into the upcoming events in Avengers: Infinity War. This week’s episode, Rise and Shine, jumped back in time twenty-eight years to further tie HYDRA into the history of the MCU, including the upcoming war. TV Line has summarized Easter Eggs in the episode.

The episode did provide a compelling argument for SHIELD and HYDRA to unite, but I am appalled by HYDRA’s view on dogs. I am glad that General Hale put an end to that when it came to her daughter’s dog.

Earlier in the season I had heard speculation that SHIELD was moved into space and the future this season in order to avoid conflicting with Avengers: Infinity War. Instead they came back prior to the movie’s release, and are now tying into it. At WonderCon the showrunners gave a different reason for going into space:

Jed Whedon: Last year was a real kitchen sink year. We had a lot of stuff going on. We did alt world. We did Ghost Rider. We did LMDs. So we did two different versions of alternate versions of ourselves and so we were thinking ‘Where can we go that’s different.’

Maurissa Tancharoen: Mack’s line sort of reflects what we were thinking in the writer’s room. He turns to Coulson and goes ‘We’re in space. It’s the one thing we haven’t done yet.’ So it was definitely an area that we had been contemplating for a while.

In other words, they went into space as it is something they had not done before. Screen Rant suggests that they venture into alternate dimensions next season.

The future for the series is unknown. The show is on the bubble at ABC, and the season finale was written to be a series finale if the show is not renewed. Besides the usual factors involved in making such a decision, it is possible that the failure of Inhumans will give Disney reason to continue SHIELD with the absence of Marvel on ABC. This might not be enough with Marvel having shows on Freeform, Netflix, and Hulu.

Another factor is that Clark Gregg will be co-staring in Captain Marvel. As the movie takes place in the 1990’s, this will not conflict with his death in the Avengers movies. It does raise the question as to whether filming the movie would interfere with SHIELD returning. While they have been hinting at the possibility of Coulson’s death on SHIELD, which would bring the television show in line with the MCU, I doubt they would bring the show back without Clark Gregg.

The last two episodes of Arrow featured the return of Roy Harper and ended (spoilers) with Thea Queen leaving town with him. Many characters have left the show, and Thea did have a reduced role this year, but it was unexpected that they would eliminate one of the few remaining stars who have been with the show since the start.

Entertainment Weekly discussed the decision with Marc Guggenheim:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What came with the decision to write Thea off the show now and whose decision was it? 
MARC GUGGENHEIM: At the end of season 4, Willa had come to us and basically said that she would like some more time for herself, and would like to reduce her role on the show. And we did, we reduced the commitment that she was making to us in season 5, and carried that over in season 6. Season 6 is the end of her contract, and going into season 6, with all of us knowing it was the end of her contract, Willa expressed the desire to move on, not re-up. She expressed a desire to be written out at a certain time in the season, which is around episode 16, so we accommodated her on that front as well. Look, we love Willa, we love working with Willa, we love the character of Thea, we particularly have always loved Thea’s relationship with Oliver. That relationship is one of the things that we deviated from the comic book early on. It was one of the very first major creative decisions we made in terms of adapting the Green Arrow comic for live action television. So it’s always been an incredibly important, critical part of the show for us.

At the same time, this is what happens when a show goes past five years. Actors start to reach the end of their contracts, they start to look towards greener pastures or new opportunities. I think this is true across all the shows. We never wanna stand in the way of someone wanting to express themselves creatively in a different way, on a different show, or through a different medium. So we took Willa’s request and took it seriously, and decided “Okay, well, if this is the hand we’re dealt, how do we play it as best we can and write off Thea in the most emotional and interesting way possible?”

Instead of getting a happy ending, Thea has set out to right her father’s wrongs. Why was this the most fitting ending?
This was something that came out of the writers’ room and it excited us for a variety of different reasons. For one thing, we really like the idea of writing Thea off in a way that suggested a larger story for her. One could imagine us, at some point in some medium, exploring the story of Thea, Roy, and Nyssa working to find these other Lazarus Pits. We tend to, as writers, gravitate toward stories that suggest other stories. As a showrunner, I got enamored with the notion of writing out a series regular in a way that didn’t suggest the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new one. That’s not something that you typically see. Normally when a character’s written off, a series regular’s written off, it always feels to me like an ending. Sometimes it’s a literal ending and you’re killing off the character, but a lot of other times it’s like, well they’re going off and just living a much quieter life and there’s no more story to tell about them. I really like the idea of actually going the opposite route and suggesting a greater and bigger story for Thea. I just think that’s both interesting and unexpected.

You’ve always said you didn’t want to kill Thea, but was that seriously considered? Were there alternate possibilities for Thea’s exit?
There were. We talked certainly about the low-hanging fruit of “Well, the simplest thing to do is bring Colton back and have her and Roy ride off into the sunset together,” sort of the way they do at the beginning of the episode. That to me was the obvious choice. That’s the thing that you would expect given the story that we’ve told with Roy and Thea since season 1. But because it’s the obvious choice, that was one of the first choices we immediately discounted, because we never wanna do something that’s so patently apparent. Killing her off was never on the table. I’ve always been very sincere and consistent in my view that Oliver just can’t lose his last remaining family member. So that was never even on the table.

Is there a chance we could see her on the show in the future? And will we get an update on the destruction of the Lazarus Pits, whether Thea returns or not?
Really, honestly, it’s totally up to Willa. One of the things that I love about Arrow — and I think this is true for the other superhero shows as well, but I think Arrow‘s really shown a capacity for it — is no one is ever gone. Even the characters who have been killed off are never gone. People can come back in a variety of different ways here. In Thea’s specific example, there’s a whole storyline left to explore. We haven’t started thinking about how to do it in season 7 or beyond. I think we know Willa’s just finished Arrow, she’s looking to see what other opportunities are out there for her. But I love this idea of Thea, Roy, and Nyssa making an unlikely trio, exploring a different part of the Arrow-verse, a different corner of the Arrow-verse. It would be a shame not to revisit it. At the same time, we’ve also shown that we can tell Arrow-verse stories in other mediums: animated, comic books, and prose novels. There are those avenues open to us as well. So I don’t know what the future holds, but there are potentials out there.

It has become commonplace on the show for characters to leave and return, so I would not be surprised if they were to do an arc with Thea returning. They even brought Katie Cassedy back after her character was killed, and now Stephen Amell is teasing that Colin Donnell (Tommie Merlin) will be returning. Supposedly this will not be a flashback, but there are all sorts of ways they could have Oliver imagine the return of people from his past, without even having to resort to either a flashback or Tommie from another earth.

Caity Lotz will also be returning in the season six finale of Arrow, in addition to her regular role in Legends of Tomorrow. There is no word what her role will be, or how she will respond to the earth-2 version of Laurel.

The Americans has returned for its final season, with a jump to 1987. Throughout the series, the speculation was that, assuming there is no happy ending for the main characters, the show might end in the arrest of the Russian agents. The season premier has raised other possibilities. Elizabeth and Philip Jennings might turn on each other. Even worse, Elizabeth’s end could come from the pill she was given now that she is in a position where she cannot be arrested. Philip has left the spy business and Paige has entered. The season premiere also showed the importance that Elizabeth places on her daughter’s safety, suggesting that this might also be the one thing which could lead her to disobey orders from Russia.

Oleg has also returned to the United States. In the past there were jokes of a Stan and Oleg spin off. Now will it be Oleg and Phillip?

No matter how things play out for the Jennings, we know that the Soviet Union is heading towards its end. Their travel agency is also an anachronism, with the internet likely to change it in the near future.

This is all just speculation as the final season can go in a number of directions. Regardless of how it plays out, I am very happy that The Americans is back. It has consistently been among the top network dramas for the last several years. Plus The Americans shows that Russian attempts to influence the United States, and vice versa, are nothing new. This is a long-standing situation which is not about why Hillary Clinton lost an election that any decent Democrat could have won, and not a reason to panic and restrict free speech. We have survived Russian attempts to influence the United States in the past and can continue to do so if we can ignore cable news hysteria.

The 2018 Hugo Award nominees are out. Television shows nominated include episodes of Black Mirror, Doctor Who, Star Trek: Discovery, and The Good Place. Following are the nominees for movies and television shows:

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

  • Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures)
  • Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
  • The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
  • Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)
  • Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

  • Black Mirror: “USS Callister,” written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, directed by Toby Haynes (House of Tomorrow)
  • “The Deep” [song], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)
  • Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time,” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit,” written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • Star Trek: Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” written by Aron Eli Coleite & Jesse Alexander, directed by David M. Barrett (CBS Television Studios)

My post on USS Callister is here, Twice Upon A Time is here,  Magic to Make the Sanest Man go Mad here, and Michael’s Gambit here.

The full list of nominees is here.

Netflix has released a pop-up musical video of Trish Walker’s video hit, Want Your Cray Cray. This was seen in season two of Jessica Jones, which both more on Jessica and Trish’s earlier years and foreshadowed Trish’s future.

SciFi Weekly: The X-Files Finale; Agents of SHIELD And The MCU; Star Trek Discovery Season Two Plans; The Ninth Doctor; What They Wear Under Those Cloaks On The Handmaid’s Tale

There are so many reviews already out there about how bad My Struggle IV was that I won’t spend much time piling on here. It is especially disappointing that this is not only the season finale of The X-Files, but it might also be the series finale. I gave them the benefit of the doubt after watching My Struggle III, hoping that essentially retconning last season’s finale would give them the opportunity to end this season in a better way. While they got rid of the alien invasion, the episode was not the season or series conclusion which fans were hoping for. At least there were some worthwhile stand alone episodes during the season.

For the benefit of those who gave up watching but have passing curiosity as to how it all ended, the episode centered around William, who was previously described as the son of Scully and Mulder. The episode ended with Scully telling Mulder, “William was an experiment. He was an idea, born in a laboratory. I carried him. I bore him. But I was never a mother to him. William wasn’t…”  This led to Mulder asking, “What am I now if I’m not a father?”

Then the big shocker to end the season: “You are a father!” Scully grabbed Mulder’s hand and put it on her abdomen.  “That’s impossible…”  “I know, it’s more than impossible,” Scully responded.

Chris Carter had this to say about the pregnancy in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

Given the twist about William’s paternity this year, can you confirm this is biologically Mulder and Scully’s kid that she is carrying?
I will confirm it is their child. But I will also confirm Scully has alien DNA.

Syfy Wire interviewed Chris Carter about the episode:

Did it feel different this year bringing the season to a close?

Chris Carter: No. I don’t think we’re at the ending as much as a new beginning. Or, it’s not a conclusion for me. It’s maybe one of the biggest cliff-hangers we’ve ever had. Certainly, with the carnage and the revelations. We did six last time, and 10 this time. Even though it took a year of my life to do it, it happens much faster. So, the arc is much quicker, and that struck me again.

When did the concept of the four-part “My Struggle” episodes come to you? Obviously, you had your Season 10 pick up, but did you know then that you wanted to tell this particular through line in four pieces?

Yeah, I had four stories to tell. They were the characters that were most central to the mythology being Mulder, Scully, the Cigarette Smoking Man, and Mulder and Scully’s son, William. Those are the stories I wanted to tell, so I’m glad everyone stuck with it.

Gillian had a very specific announcement this year saying that she was retiring from the character. Did that affect the tail end of the season?

No, it’s what I wanted to do always. I wanted to reveal William’s immortality. I wanted to bring Mulder and Scully back together in the most emotional way. So, I had all those cards to play.

Some showrunners have an idea of a last image that they want to end with. Was Mulder and Scully hugging on that dock with the knowledge that she’s pregnant set, or did that come from telling that story this season?

It was in my head and I couldn’t wait to shoot it. But that’s not the last image. (Laughs)

True. It was indeed William in the water alive. But was it Mulder and Scully or William you were moving towards the whole season?

You know, I’m so invested in these characters. I’ve lived so much of my life with them, and it’s a moment we’ve seen twice. We’ve seen it at the end of the second movie, and we’ve seen it now at the end of the finale. The revelation about the first child was a different situation. I really feel like emotionally they are connected in a way that we haven’t ever quite seen.

The X-Files has always been very subtle about portraying the romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully. But you let the writers lean into it this season with some really poignant moments. Why was it important to show that now?

I think that there was some part of us that heard the fans. There was another part of us that saw them both getting older and thinking about the future, and thinking about retirement and old age, and what their lives might be together. So, I think that these are poignant moments for two characters who have known each other for 25 years…

What was the wrap shot for the season?

I think the final shots that I shot were with some of the additional stuff that I had to do with Mitch for that action sequence. The sequence on the dock with Mulder and Scully was the second to last night. We tried to put it on the last night, but we were unable to do that.

Speaking of Skinner, we’re very well trained by you that unless you say someone’s dead, they aren’t dead. So, we see part of Skinner’s body. Do you want to say if he’s dead or not?

Well, you see him lying under the car. But you did see him fall before the car hit him, so while he’s motionless it certainly begs many questions…

I’ve got a nerdy question: In “My Struggle part II”, we get Scully’s vision of the end of times. And it showed CSM in a very different physical state. And then we see in this season that he looks fine. Are we supposed to assume his regenerated appearance is a result of his involvement with the various alien projects?

CSM’s had access to science that no one else has access to, and if he is a part of William’s immortality, what’s to say that he doesn’t hold the key to that in his cells? And when he went off the end of that pier, what does that suggest?

I’m going to assume until I see his dead body that he could be coming back at any point.  So let’s shift to the fact that Kersh closed the X-Files again. Are we supposed to take that at face value?

My feeling is that The X-Files has been closed before. They closed it in Season 1 actually, long ago. So, it’s not the first time. Practically, those files still sit down there in those drawers. And someone is going to investigate them. And if that’s Mulder and Scully, they’ll do it with the same passion they’ve always done it with. But the fact is that those files sit down in those drawers to be investigated.

David posed to me once that The X-Files should live on with a show about William. With Gillian retired from Scully, is that more of a credible direction for you to ponder as a spin-off?

No, I guess you could take that approach. I hadn’t really considered it. I like Miles Robbins (William). I think he’s interesting, I think the character of William is interesting, but that’s a different kind of show. That would really be starting from scratch. It’s more of a superhero show. That might be an undertaking, but I’m too tired to think about it right now.

Additional interviews with Chris Carter are available on TVLine and Entertainment Weekly.

The showrunners for Agents of SHIELD were asked how Avengers Infinity War would affect the show at WonderCon. While there was nothing very specific, they did discuss how the movies have changed what they do on the show (beyond the obvious first season response to the first Avengers movie). From Deadline:

“If you watched the trailer, a lot of sh*t goes down!” exclaimed Whedon. “These are the kinds of questions we can do everything but answer.”

However, he did provide us with something to chew on. “The movies blaze a path,” he continued. “When Doctor Strange came out it introduced us to magic which gave us Ghost Rider; when [Guardians of the Galaxy] came out, we were introduced to space. We are waiting for that movie to come out so it can open a new playground for us.”

TrekMovie.com listed what was learned about Star Trek: Discovery season 2 at WonderCon. Here’s some excerpts:

Regarding being in the Prime Timeline:

Aaron Harberts: The idea was to always be in the Prime Timeline. Obviously, there are questions and concerns and things that are different. Our technology is a little different. We have a ship that runs very differently. We are our own show in a lot of ways. Season two is really exciting for us. This is our opportunity to really show how Discovery fits into this Prime Timeline. We are firmly committed to that.

Regarding the dark tone of the first season:

Gretchen J. Berg: We are aware it is a different era and a different format for the show. I don’t think we are gunning for shock value. Everything always comes out of character and story. If it feels like something that would happen in that world and in that context, we go in that direction. It is not a group that leads with wanting to shock people or horrify people.

Aaron Harberts: [Season one] was an interesting season because it was set against the backdrop of war. One of things we are looking forward to in season two is a tone that we can now be in a more exploratory phase and a more diplomatic phase – maybe a bit more of a Trekian chapter…But, everything for us is really driven by character.

About the USS Enterprise seen at the end of the season:

Tamara Deverell: For the Enterprise, we based it initially off of The Original Series. We were really drawing a lot of our materials from that. And then we particularly went to more of the Star Trek movies, which is a little bit fatter, a little bit bigger. Overall, I think we expanded the length of it to be within the world of our Discovery, which is bigger, so we did cheat it as a larger ship.

Jason Zimmerman: It starts with them giving us designs to work with and then there is a lot of back and forth between VFX and [Tamra’s] department to make sure that we get everything right. There were a lot of conversations and more emails than I could remember about how the design would evolve and sort of match our universe, and that is how we sort of arrived where we are

About the uniforms:

Gretchen J. Berg: Well, we are in the same timeline. This is the prime universe and we are pretty close to when TOS happens.

Aaron Harberts: Well, we bump up against the Enterprise at the end of our [season one] finale, and we know what kind of uniforms they wear. So, we will leave it at that.

Regarding Saru:

Aaron Harberts: You will learn more about Saru this season. We had to lay some pipe early in episode 2 [of season one]. What are those threat ganglia. What do they do? What do they represent in the Terran Empire and a lot of that stuff will fold back in when we are back on the air.

ScreenRant has a clue as to what might be coming in the second season. They report on a deleted scene in which Section 31 recruiting is recruiting Mirror Georgiou.

Steven Moffat has released portions of an early version of the script for The Day of the Doctor, the fiftieth anniversary episode, in which Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor appears. Radio Times has some excerpts.

Eccleston recently told The Guardian that he was blacklisted by the BBC after he left Doctor Who:

“What happened around Doctor Who almost destroyed my career,” he says. “I gave them a hit show and I left with dignity and then they put me on a blacklist. I was carrying my own insecurities as it was something I had never done before and then I was abandoned, vilified in the tabloid press and blacklisted. I was told by my agent at the time: ‘The BBC regime is against you. You’re going to have to get out of the country and wait for regime change.’ So I went away to America and I kept on working because that’s what my parents instilled in me. My dad always said to me: ‘I don’t care what you do – sweeping the floor or whatever you’re doing – just do the best job you can.’ I know it’s cliched and northern and all that bollocks, but it applies.”

He described tensions on the show before he left with Radio Times:

“My relationship with my three immediate superiors – the showrunner, the producer and co-producer – broke down irreparably during the first block of filming and it never recovered,” Eccleston says in the latest issue of Radio Times.

“They lost trust in me, and I lost faith and trust and belief in them,” he continues.

Eccleston starred in the sci-fi series when it first rebooted in 2005 with Russell T Davies as showrunner.

Describing the situation as “very” stressful, Eccleston claims that he felt out of place playing a lighter role, and believes it may have contributed to on-set difficulties.

“Some of my anger about the situation came from my own insecurity,” he says. “They employed somebody [as the Doctor] who was not a natural light comedian.”

He adds, “Billie [Piper], who we know was and is brilliant, was very, very nervous and very, very inexperienced. So, you had that, and then you had me. Very, very experienced, possibly the most experienced on it, but out of my comfort zone.”

In the interview, Eccleston goes on to reveal why he’s only elected to speak on the subject in recent months, with the Salford-born actor suggesting he’d made an agreement not to “damage” the reputation of the series.

“When I left, I gave my word to [then-showrunner] Russell T Davies that I wouldn’t do anything to damage the show,” he says. “But they did things to damage me. I didn’t criticise anybody.”

Asked if Davies was aware of the issues, Eccleston says, “If you’re the showrunner, you know everything. That’s your job,” adding that he “never will have” a working relationship with the screenwriter again.

We finally got an answer as to what the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale wear under those cloaks:

Keeping in mind that the show is being filmed up in Canada where it can get quite cold in some regions it’s not too much of a surprise that some of the women have said that they either wear granny panties that cover nearly their entire abdomen or resort to wearing multiple layers of long johns to stave off the chill. Some of them even manage to tape heating packs to their bodies to keep warm as the cloaks don’t do much for warmth in the colder climate in which they film

There are also clues as to what happened to Offred after the cliff hanger ending of season one here.

SciFi Weekend: The Magicians Musical Episode; Black Mirror Renewed; Timeless Returns; Michelle Gomez on Returning To Doctor Who; The Expanse; Agents of SHIELD; Gotham; Lost In Space; Jessica Jones; Altered Carbon; Episode of Black-ish Too Controversial For ABC

Last season The Magicians went into battle with a musical number from Les Miserables (video here). This season they topped that in an episode with four muscical numbers, which also revealed where Josh has been.  The most talked about musical scene was Under Pressure where the entire cast was involved but my favorite was Kady (Jade Tailor) singing All I Need Is the Boy (adapted from All I Need Is the Girl from Gypsy). While most of the cast members have no experience singing, Jade Tailor does have experience with burlesque.

I have not been able to find a stand alone video of Jade Tailor’s song. Video of the entire cast singing Under Pressure follows:

The producers discussed All That Josh with Entertainment Weekly:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In approaching the episode with so many musical numbers, where do you start — with the songs or the story? 
JOHN MCNAMARA: God, I wish it was that linear. [Laughs]
SERA GAMBLE: John, I remember you talking about the David Bowie song, like, the previous season. Am I remembering this right, that you kind of had this image in your head of everybody singing that song long before we got to this episode?
MCNAMARA: Yeah, I think the music was first. Initially, I think it was a much looser, even lighter, less menacing plot. At first, the design was almost going to be like a singing contest where there are high stakes to be lost. That didn’t really hold water, it just didn’t seem to work. [We realized] it had to sit in the serialized narrative of the show, it had to be about the quest, it had to be about something and someone you really cared about, and it had to also serve several ongoing threads that had nothing to do with this musical pocket universe. That just took a lot of trial and error. This was one of those episodes — you have one every season — where the normal episode will take anywhere from three days to two weeks to break the story, get all the beats on the board, and my recollection is this took six weeks. It stopped the [writers’] room. It literally stopped all forward momentum. Fortunately, we’d been on schedule with our other scripts and we kind of planned out. This was the knot to untangle at the end of the second third of the season. All hands were on deck. I give a lot of credit (or blame, depending) to my two co-writers Jay Gard and Alex Raiman. This was their debut professional script.

For me, one of the breakthroughs — which fortunately happened while I was out of the room, so it wasn’t my idea, but I immediately approved it — was the idea that it was a universe where there were dangerous consequences if you didn’t behave exactly the way the leader, Todd/the demon, wanted you to behave. That was a really important breakthrough, I think, for all the writers because it gave it a lot of bottom. It wasn’t just going to be like jazz hands.

When I got to this episode, I was surprised that it became about the group uniting. How did you land on taking it in that specific direction, where it’s about Josh feeling left out? 
MCNAMARA: Part of it was just an accident. We realized we hadn’t had Josh in a bunch of episodes. He sort of got bumped out of a block of episodes through no fault of his own, just that we have a lot of characters and a lot of plot, and that in a way felt fortuitous, that you could then make the show about what happened to Josh.
GAMBLE: Whether or not the episode we’re working on happens to have half a dozen musical numbers in it, we are always playing within the structure of a classic fairy-tale quest this season. Quentin especially is very, very cognizant of how these epic quests work and how each step of the quest challenges the quester in a different way. From the beginning in this case, the quest has been a group effort, and when Eliot is given the quest in the first episode, he’s both encouraged and warned by the fact that everybody is part of one whole, and that means that these different keys, as you try to get them, will challenge you in different ways. If they’re a team and they forgot Josh, that’s a problem for the quest. So that was really one of the first things that we could sink our teeth into. Unlike John, I really don’t have a brain for musical theater. There are a lot of hilariously ardent musical theater fans in The Magicians writers’ room, as you can tell, starting with John, and I am not one of them. I am sort of the grumpy person in the corner who’s drinking coffee and saying, “Explain to me how this would work if no one was singing.”

You had “Under Pressure” in the back of you head for a while, but how did you pick the other three songs for the episode?
MCNAMARA: We knew the opening number would have to reintroduce Josh in a big way. It would have to be a big, inexplicably well-choreographed number that tells you why he’s so happy to be here, how integrated he is into this universe. The dance tells you something nonverbally about the world and the character: He is the center of this whole little universe. He’s the lead singer, he’s the lead dancer, and Todd is kind of his enabler, and we later learn why. That to me felt like we needed something big and upbeat and party-ish. We listened to a lot of songs, I can’t remember the titles of all of them. Some of them were insanely expensive and popular, and the song “Wham Bam” I thought was really catchy and a lot of fun. I thought it was like a really good introduction. It then gave Alice, Quentin, and Kady something to stare incomprehensibly at.

Another [type of musical number] that I’m very fond of is cabaret, where most of the musical numbers take place on a stage, so that you’re seeing a character perform for an audience that isn’t the audience in the theater, it’s the audience of the Kit Kat Klub, and character and milieu are revealed through a little more of a sideways way in. On the surface, it’s not as revealing of character, but if you do it right, it’s very revealing of character. So that informed the decision to have Kady sing her song. All I knew about that song early on was I wanted it to be a Sondheim song, because I love his work and I think it’s really intelligent and it always has layers to it, and I knew that it had to be a torch song because I had an instinct early on that we do a kind of classic Mata Hari move wherein she would do something outrageous to distract all of these creatures, and mollify and entertain them while our heroes were off doing something nefarious upstairs with Josh. I thought the [“All I Need Is the Boy”] lyrics were just as good if not better than “All I Need Is the Girl,” which has pretty good lyrics. I thought that’s the perfect torch song and definitely for our really hardcore musical theater aficionados, who may number in single digits, it’s kind of a treat to hear what is kind of, for 99% of the world, a brand new Stephen Sondheim lyric and, in my opinion, does not disappoint when you want cleverness, emotion, and a not-sentimental emotion and depth from Sondheim.

Then I came to discover with Sera, Jay, and Alex was now we have to explain why it is Kady would choose to sing this song and do a striptease. Then we thought, well, her mom, who we met in season 1 and was a bit of free spirit, might have had a year where she decided to be a stripper and maybe she did this burlesque number and Kady remembers it and recreates the dress. Without necessarily intending to, suddenly the song and the number and the moment and even the suspense it creates all illuminates Kady’s character to a greater degree.

“Car Wash” was just that we wanted something fun for Josh to use to distract, but also to slowly reveal to him how empty and repetitive this life has become and how false it is. I thought disco was a pretty good route to get to the death of the soul. If you’re just doing disco for months and months and months, you’re going to see the emptiness of it. As I said, “Under Pressure” was always in the back of my head before there was anything like a story as something that all eight characters could sing as we intercut between their various worlds and their various problems. None of us started out knowing how or why. That was just always on the board as the big number. In a weird way, the only one that we planned ahead of time was “Under Pressure.” Everything else was kind of trial and error, and selected to either illuminate character or move the story forward.O

Inside the Magicians (video above) has more on the episode, including a very brief look at Jade Tailor singing All I Need Is the Boy.

Black Mirror was officially renewed for a fifth season. There is no word yet as to how many episodes

Timeless returns tonight. Spoiler TV has a preview of the episode here.

In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, Michelle Gomez says she might return to face Jodie Whittaker’s version of the Doctor. She had this to say about the character:

I think it’s going to be really hard to shake this one off. Missy has made quite a big impression on me, and hopefully on the fans as well. She was such a great fit. Even though, for now, she has been laid to rest. I don’t think she’s ever going to be that far away. I loved playing this character so much, and it was really hard to see her go. But I think that in many different shapes and forms, she will be back. I can’t really say much more than that. I have never had this response to anything else that I’ve done, and I’m really grateful for that.

While her character appeared to be killed and left unable to regenerate, the Master has a long tradition of returning from apparent death. Plus time travel would allow for seeing her at a different point in her time line.

Syfy has released the above trailer for The Expanse season three, which returns April 11.

There were big moments last week for the 100th episode of Agents of SHIELD (discussed and spoiled here), and on Gotham. Although it was during a drug induced hallucination caused by Poison Ivy, Bruce Wayne had a vision of his future, with might be the only view of Batman we are likely to see on the show:

The Librarians has been cancelled by TNT, with there some talk of trying to have it picked up elsewhere.

Netflix will be releasing another remake of Lost in Space on April 13, and released the following trailer:

Jessica Jones is out on Netflix now. I have a four more episodes to go, but so far it has been excellent, showing more about Jessica’s backstory. While the series is slow moving, I haven’t minded. I would much rather spend time with Jessica, Patsy, and the rest of this cast than in the far less interesting world created in Iron Fist.

Altered Carbon is another show highly worth binging which came out recently on Netflix. It also starts out a little slow, but once I got to the second half it was hard to stop until the end.  While it has not been renewed for a second season, I would not be surprised if it returns after the success of the first season. They have the options of adapting the sequels to the novel, or writing new stories set in the universe created.  Joel Kinnaman, star of the current season, will be staring in Hanna on Amazon, and may or may not be available to return for a future season. However, somewhat analogous to Doctor Who, this series has a built-in way to cast a new lead. In this case, as occurred in the novels, Takeshi Kovacs could receive a new sleeve and have his consciousness placed in a new body, played by a different actor. If desired, they could continue this series with a different lead actor every year.

Black-ish has often dealt with political matters, but the episode originally scheduled for February 27 was not shown due to “creative differences.” Variety has some information on the episode:

Shot in November and directed by Barris, “Please, Baby, Please” features Anthony Anderson’s patriarch Dre caring for his infant son on the night of an intense thunderstorm that keeps the whole household awake. Dre attempts to read the baby a bedtime story, but abandons that plan when the baby continues to cry. He instead improvises a bedtime story that, over the course of the episode, conveys many of Dre’s concerns about the current state of the country.

The episode covers multiple political and social issues. In one scene, Dre and oldest son Junior (Marcus Scribner) argue over the rights of athletes to kneel during the performance of the national anthem at football games.

SciFi Weekend Time Travel Edition: Legends of Tomorrow Does The Time Loop; Doctor Who News; Timeless Season 2

Having the characters of a science fiction show enter a time loop as on Groundhog Day has been a common trope on science fiction shows. Last week’s attempt at this on Legends of Tomorrow might not have been the best version, but it turned out to be a great homage to the sub-genre. Tala Ashe (Zari) did an excellent job of expressing her frustration of repeating the same events repeatedly.

In some ways this was most like the version seen earlier this year on Star Trek: Discovery. The overall scenario was quite different from Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad, but they were similar in having one character realize they were in a time loop, and having their ship explode at the end of each cycle. On both shows, one person realized what was going on, but had a hard time convincing others.

On Discovery, Stamets beat the time loop by convincing Burnham that he was telling the truth by showing that he knew everything she was going to say, and subsequently others were brought in.

On Legends, Zari initially had no success convincing others she was telling the truth. I was actually thinking at one point that time loops are such a common science fiction trope that the obvious thing to do is to tell people that things were happening like on Groundhog Day. Moments later Zari came close to this in a conversation with Nate. Actually she explained the scenario and Nate recognized it as Groundhog Day. Having it explained like Groundhog day was enough for him to believe her, and he and suggested that she only had to tell him that to get him on board next time. She did botch by saying Hedgehog Day, but she ultimately got the message across.

Groundhog Day is hardly the only example of this. Subsequently Ray was brought in, except that he related the scenario to Cause and Effect, an episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation. Other recent shows to use this trope have included the fourth episode of season three of Dark Matter, and the movie Edge of Tomorrow. While I did not watch the show, I also recently read that Xena: Warrior Princess had their own version entitled Been There, Done That. With this being such a common trope, it really should not be hard to explain what is going on if one encounters a science fiction fan while in a time loop.

The episode used the time loops partially for fun, and showing more about the characters. This included another rare occurrence of seeing Amy Pemberton give Gideon a human form. Other fun aspects including learning that Mick writes romance novels (and goes to great lengths to keep this secret). One time Nate suggested that Zari take a break and go though a cycle and just have fun, knowing she would have another chance to try to prevent the Waverider from exploding afterwards.

When Doctor Who returns next fall, major changes in how the show looks and feels are inevitable, between a new show runner (Chris Chibnall) and the first female Doctor (played by Jodie Whittaker). The show will also have a new logo, pictured above. A BBC America press release states that, “all official Doctor Who merchandise featuring the new logo will be available at selected retailers from February 20th, 2018.”

There will also will might be significant changes to the sound of Doctor Who. Murray Gold, who has been composing the music for Doctor Who since its return in 2005, is leaving.

Another rumored change might be moving the show from Saturday to Sunday. I hope this is the case as I regularly download Doctor Who as soon as possible after airing in the UK, except for when it conflicts with college football–as it inevitably will when moved back to the fall.

There are also rumors that an episode next season will deal with Rosa Parks.

Now that old television shows are easy to watch I suspect that there is far less interest in novelizations of episodes, but if people are still interested, Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat are writing novelizations of some of the episodes they wrote.

For those interested in podcasts about both science fiction and Doctor Who, I recently discovered one worth subscribing to. Imaginary Worlds deals with a wide range of science fiction topics, and is currently running a series on Doctor Who. The first episodes was on the Doctor, the second was on the companions, and the third is on the Daleks, with briefer mention of other villains. The stories have a feel sort of as if This American Life was covering Doctor Who. The coverage includes both the original run and the new series. The podcasts would be great for someone new to the show to get a feel for its background, but long time viewers are also likely to find it interesting.

Another time travel show, Timeless, returns March 11. This was a rare case of a show being cancelled, and then the network reversing the decision and renewing it. Any chance someone went back in time to change the future for the show?

As Timeless ended on a big cliffhanger, which I looked at here, I am happy that it will be returning.

Following is the official synopsis of the season from NBC:

From Eric Kripke (“Revolution,” “Supernatural”) and Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), season two of this thrilling action-adventure series will pick up right where we left off with our heroes. We continue to race throughout history with our beloved team: Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), a scientist; Wyatt (Matt Lanter), a soldier; and Lucy (Abigail Spencer), a history professor, in an attempt to prevent the destruction of our world as we all know it. This season they’ll find an unlikely ally in their quest to ruin Rittenhouse, a deadly organization with plans to change history and reshape reality — even though Lucy’s family has been a part of Rittenhouse for centuries. Still making every effort not to affect the past themselves, they will visit 1692, 1917, 1941, 1981 and more.  We’ll be introduced to the likes of Marie Curie, Hedy Lamarr, William Randolph Hearst and a multitude of other influential people throughout history. 

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The X-Files; Time Travel: Doctor Who, Timeless, and Legends of Tomorrow

With Vaulting Ambition I feel that Star Trek: Discovery has moved on from what was predictable and discussed in previous posts to new surprises. As I, and probably most of the internet, previously guessed, Ash Tyler is Voq, Lorca is from the Mirror universe and caused Discovery to wind up there, and Georgiou is the Emperor. All of this was finally confirmed, additional details provided, and new questions raised.

If you accept the logic of the Mirror Universe, most of the remaining revelations in Vaulting Ambition make total sense. In the Prime Universe Burnham was an orphan, was close to Georgiou, and betrayed her. In the Mirror Universe, the specifics are different, but this basic framework exists. As we learned last week that Sarek was not the one who adopted Burnham, it was not all that much of a surprise to learn that Georgiou was the one who adopted her.

It was already pretty obvious that Lorca had a special need for Burnham considering how he not only arranged for her to be on Discovery, but also acted very protective of her. Their connection was explained. Presumably the Lorca of the Prime Universe and the Mirror Burnham are dead, but having one or the other show up isn’t impossible. The writers sure played with the audience in both surprising us in the dinner scene with the revelations that Burnham was adopted by Georgiou, and subsequently that Burnham had betrayed her with Lorca. They also played with the viewers when Lorca was in the torture booth initially pretending not to know the name of the sister, as would be expected if he was from the Prime Universe. Then he suddenly gave it away.

There were already many clues. While there was already speculation that Lorca was the Mirror version to explain his very un-Starfleet like behavior, including leaving Harry Mudd behind with the Klingons, I became convinced of it in Lethe. The clues included him not remembering details of past actions with Admiral Cornwall and his behavior towards her, including attacking her and sleeping with a phaser. Another clue in this episode was finding that both Georgiou and Lorca eat Kelpiens, after Burhnam picked one out as we pick lobsters. Again this is consistent with Kelpiens being a prey species in the Prime Universe (even if not prey of humans). The clincher for Burnham was finding out about the shared eye problem between Georgiou and Lorca.

The confirmation that Lorca is from the Mirror Universe provides an answer for critics of Discovery who complain that what we have seen is not consistent with Star Trek. Lorca was not acting like a Starfleet Captain because he was from the Mirror Universe. The fact that his actions were found to be suspicious and he was at risk of losing his command shows that the rest of this universe is like the Star Trek universe we are accustomed to.

Burnham, who has frequently made bad decisions from her initial attack on Georgiou in the pilot to going to the planet last week, seems to have made another one in quickly informing Mirror Georgiou both that she is from a different universe and about the spore drive. Georgiou was far better at keeping secrets, including the use of her killer fidget spinner to make sure none of the witnesses to the conversation will talk. Burnham was also easily conned by Mirror Georgiou’s claims of being honorable as the Georgiou she knew was honorable, but the whole point of the Mirror Universe is that we are seeing the evil versions of Federation characters.

Also in the episode, Stamets did get to see Culber again, but it hardly left me optimistic that Culber will actually be seen alive again. The issues in the mycelial network might provide yet another reason why the technology is not being used by the time of the original show.

It was surprising that  L’Rell both revealed so much about her plan with Voq, and gave in to work on him. This still leaves the question open of what she is actually doing, and who will remain when she is done.

There are many remaining questions including the specifics of Lorca’s plan. In a battle between the Mirror versions of Lorca and Georgiou, is one preferable, or are both entirely evil? Will learning about how Lorca got into the Prime Universe provide another way home for Discovery? Regardless of how the battle between Lorca and Georgiou turns out, where does this leave Star Trek: Discovery in the future?

It is hard to see Lorca being Captain in the future, unless the Prime Universe version is locked up in Lorca’s menagerie and will be ready to retake command (after a hiatus between seasons). One of the original ideas discussed for Discovery was for it to be an anthology series. I wonder if it is even a possibility that next season will be an entirely different story with a different ship and crew. That possibility also means that we cannot even be certain that the Discovery will return to the Prime Universe. It might be stuck in the Mirror Universe, wind up in yet another universe, or leave the Mirror universe at a different point in time.

If you only watch one episode of The X-Files this season, watch The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat. The episode was written by Darin Morgan who wrote classic episodes such as Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’ and the best episode of last seasonMulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.

The episode appears to be inspired by both The Twilight Zone and Donald Trump. It is about gaps in collective memory, a phenomenon known as the Mandela effect–except in the episode it is also misremembered as the Mengele effect. Examples begin with Mulder finding evidence that his favorite episode of The Twilight Zone, The Lost Martian, doesn’t really exist. When Mulder couldn’t find it anywhere Scully suggested it might have been an episode of The Outer Limits. Mulder was shocked: “Confuse The Twilight Zone with The Outer Limits?! Do you even know me?”

Elsewhere in the episode Mulder set everyone straight as to who he is: “Do you know who I am? I’m Fox Mulder! I was fighting the power and breaking conspiracies before you saw your first chemtrail, you punks! I’m Fox Freaking Mulder, you punks! I’m Fox Mulder! Fox Mulder!”

Much of the episode involved meeting a guy named Reggie in a parking garage, with other faux historical information provided about manipulating collective memory. This included Dr. Thaddeus Q. They, who had worked on making astronauts forget home, but wound up making them think they were chimpanzees. His best scene was siting on top of the Washington Monument (as there were no other seats available) wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. It was mocking Trump’s claims about the inaugural crowd by pretending that the public was manipulated into forgetting how many people actually attended.

This was the perfect episode for the Trump era, called the POCO age in this episode as “We’re living in a post-cover-up, post-conspiracy age.”  This might describe the POCO age:

No one will care whether the truth gets out, because the public no longer knows what’s meant by the truth. No one can tell the difference anymore between what’s real and what’s fake. Take this Mandela Effect. In the old days, I never would have come out and admitted to you that yes, I can change people’s collective memories.

Dr. They gave Trump credit: “Our current president once said something truly profound. He said, ‘Nobody knows for sure.’”

The episode had Mulder attempt to explain discrepancies in memory based upon parallel universes, while Skully explained it by faulty memory. When Mulder’s memory of watching television of a child was shown, there was a child sized Mulder with adult Mulder’s head.

The invasion of Grenada was shown to be a cover-up of an alien visit. We later later learned that, “We’re not alone in the universe, but nobody likes us.” The alien returned to say that a wall, which will be “beautiful, albeit invisible,” will be built around our solar system to keep humans from infecting the rest of the galaxy. The rationalization sounded like one from Donald Trump saying the Earth is  “not sending us your best people. You’re bringing drugs, you’re bringing crime, you’re rapists.” To make up for this restriction, Mulder was given a book entitled All the Answers, which answers all the questions raised by the X-Files. Of course Mulder did not want the book, wanting to continue his search for the truth.

Ultimately the entire series was retconned to include Reggie as a third member of the team, with scenes from classic episodes edited to include Reggie Forrest Gump style. The idea was set up earlier this season in This when Mulder and Scully were flipping through the electronic X-Files and there was a badge for Reggie. Reggie was ultimately taken away in a straight jacket. Skinner then came out asking where they were taking Reggie, adding a question as to how real his story was.

With the recent talk of a secret society in the FBI working to undermine Trump, I do hope that Gillian Anderson reconsiders and returns for another season of The X-Files so that they could do an episode on this. The likelihood that this talk is largely nonsense in no way reduces the possibility that The X-Files could use the idea for an episode.

SyFy.com interviewed Darin Morgan:

With the renewal of The X-Files for a Season 11 and your call back to write another episode, did it start with asking yourself, “What do I want to explore?”

Darin Morgan: Well, you know my last episode [“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”] was kind of about coming back to the show, and reflecting back on what did it all mean and how did I feel about that?

 have to say, it was a unique exploration of those themes via comedian Rhys Darby’s out-of-sorts monster.

Yeah, Rhys was great. So this one was more of like, ‘Okay, you’ve reflected, so what’s going on now with the world?” And the whole idea of, if this show’s main thing has been ‘The truth is out there’ and we have a president who…

For him there is no truth.

Right. Or you have Mulder, who’s been a conspiracy nut from the get-go, and now you have essentially his boss [President Trump] is even a bigger conspiracy nut.

Mulder actually looks sane for the first time compared to where the world is right now.

Exactly. So that was the main approach. How would Mulder respond to all that’s going on around him?

David and I talked about that too, in that over the 25-year span of the show, the world has achieved peak surreal. As a writer, how do you distill that into this world?

Good question. I don’t know. This may not directly answer you, but I found the hardest thing was in terms of Trump, every day he does something that you go, “I can’t believe he said that. I want to address that.” But a week later, no one remembers that thing. There were so many things when I first started writing that if I had referenced it I don’t think people would have remembered it now. So I ended up focusing on the wall and his lying. Those two things will always be around as long as he’s president. I sort of focused on those two things.

Having Reggie as the third partner is fantastic. Where did that idea come from, and also Brian’s casting?

Brian was great. He’s a lot of fun. I came across the… I was going to say the Mengele Effect, but it’s The Mandela Effect. (Laughs) From that it was figuring out what I was going to do with that. It’s this idea — and I think this is where the third partner idea came in — was like if someone has never had an experience, like I don’t have a memory other people do, the only way to make them understand what that might feel like is if someone was watching the show, The X-Files, and the someone goes, “There was always another character.” And you go, “Wait, no, no. It was just Mulder and Scully.” And they say, “No, no. There was Mulder and Scully and Reggie something.” That would put them in a position of going, “Oh, how would I react if a memory I have that I cherished of my past, suddenly nobody else believes me?” So that was the way to do it.

Did you come out of the other end of it feeling like the phenomena is something more?

No.

No?

I still think it’s just people misremembering. I have a really bad memory myself. It’s interesting to go, “Oh, try to come up with some theory to explain it.” But it’s just people not remembering. I guess that’s why I probably didn’t do as thorough and in-depth exploration of that phenomenon, because, to me, there wasn’t a lot to run with. Other than that, I get parallel universes, which is one explanation…

Are you doing any episodes in the back part of the season?

No. Once is enough.

After all these years, do you feel like new X-Files stories still come to you easily?

Oh, God no. No. It’s always tough. Writing for the show is so hard because you have to come up with a completely different story and it’s not in an anthology show, which in some ways makes it easier. But it’s also difficult because you have to do Mulder and Scully investigating a story on something completely different. It’s just always difficult. I’ve never had an episode where, “Oh, that one was easy.”

I am glad that the 13th Doctor won her first battle. From Digital Spy:

The BBC gender pay gap was one of the biggest stories of last year, and one person who is not afraid of fighting such inequality is Jodie Whittaker.

The actress told Digital Spy and other media outlets that she made sure that she got paid the same as her Doctor Who predecessor Peter Capaldi.

Speaking backstage at the National Television Awards, Whittaker said: “It’s an incredibly important time and the notion [of equal pay] should be supported.

“It’s a bit of a shock that it’s a surprise to everyone that it should be supported!

“I know I do not speak just on behalf of the women here, I speak on behalf of the men and the women,” she added, stating that people of both sexes believe they should be paid equally.

When asked how she was enjoying working on the iconic sci-fi show, the actress said: “Yeah, it’s great. I love it, I absolutely love it, yeah. It’s amazing! I get to see all the best places!”

Den of Geek looked at the unanswered questions of the Peter Capaldi era.

Radio Times summarized what is known about the first season of the Jodie Whittaker era here.

NBC has announced a return date for Timeless. The second season will  start on Sunday, March 11th at 10 p.m. with an episode entitled, The War to End All Wars. Needless to say, it involves a trip back to World War I. I hope they don’t give away the fact that we call it World War I as the Doctor did on Twice Upon A Time. Spoilers.

On another time travel series, Legends of Tomorrow, Wally West (Kid Flash) is going to become a series regular. Constantine will also appear on the show when it returns February 12. Following is the synopsis of the episode:

After Sara’s (Caity Lotz) encounter with Mallus, the Legends are paid a visit by John Constantine (guest star Matt Ryan), a demonologist detective.

The Legends agree to accompany him to a present-day psychiatric hospital and they are surprised to discover who Constantine is trying to help.

During the exorcism, Sara, Leo (guest star Wentworth Miller) and Constantine go missing, leaving Ray (Brandon Routh) and Zari (Tala Ashe) to try to take care of Constantine’s client.

Meanwhile, Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) and Nate (Nick Zano) once again come face to face with Kuasa. Dominc Purcell also stars.

The CW Network is staggering its superhero shows, having recently started Black LighteningMark Pedowitz, the CW’s president, realizes that there is a limit to how many superhero shows can survive at once, and has placed a limit of four. Good idea, especially considering that other networks also have superhero and comic-based series at present.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Returns; The X-Files; Runaways Concludes First Season; The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two; Krypton

Star Trek: Discovery returned last week with Despite Yourself, directed by Jonathan Frakes. The episode immediately provided the answers to two points which were widely predicted: Ash Tyler is Voq and the Discovery is in the Mirror universe. Of course there were new twists to keep things interesting.

As I had been discussing late in the fall season, the only way to make sense of Ash Tyler’s actions was that if he was Voq he was a sleeper agent and did not realize it. This turned out to be true, but in addition something went wrong when L’Rell tried to restore his memories. This leaves Ash/Voq in a situation where we cannot predict what he will do in the future, and we have seen that at times either could dominate.

The procedure used for Voq was quite sophisticated, initially fooling medical exams. (The Tribble was back on Lorca’s desk so perhaps it can expose Voq–except both are off the Discovery.) Ultimately Culber did figure it out, and appears to have been killed to keep him quiet. This resulted in Discovery taking heat for providing another case of part of a same-sex couple getting killed, such as on The 100 a couple of years ago. This led to quick assurances that we will see Culber again. There are many possibilities including that he can still recover (with the help of future medicine) from having his neck snapped, Stamets using time travel or other aspects of the mycelial network to reverse what happened, or the replacement of Culber with a version from the Mirror universe or another universe. It is a bit strange that there was nobody else around either sickbay or the brig when Ash was letting L’Rell out of the brig or attacking Culber.

Finding that Ash Tyler is actually a sleeper Klingon has the potential for further ramifications now that he is one of only three from the Discovery crew on the ISS Shenzhou. This came about due to a poor decision from Burnham to keep quiet about him, but it was established early that Burnham is capable of making really bad decisions. Fortunately we saw that Burnham is very capable of defending herself.

It was also revealed very early in the episode that they were in the Mirror universe from Mirror, Mirror. The data recovered from a destroyed rebel ship quickly provided them with quite detailed information about not only the Empire but about the roles of the crew on their own ship. While somewhat unrealistic that they could have received this much information, it did allow them to quickly get into the story without wasting time searching out this information. This also provided a good way to bring viewers new to Star Trek up to date without boring long time viewers. Tying this into the events of an episode of Enterprise, In a Mirror, Darkly, was also rewarding for long time Star Trek fans, while new viewers could still follow what is going on. (A synopsis of In a Mirror, Darkly can be found here).

While Captain Lorca reviewed the information they retrieved, it also felt like this was for the benefit of others, and Lorca was already aware of what was going on, having appeared to have intentionally caused the Discovery to wind up in the Mirror universe. Having learned that the Lorca of the Mirror universe has disappeared raises suspicion that possibly the Lorca we know is actually the Mirror counterpart. This would explain much of his behavior, including sleeping with a weapon. If so, Lorca is more sophisticated than Mirror Kirk, who could not keep fit in and keep his identity secret when he crossed over to our universe in Mirror, Mirror. There is also the question of what is going on with the Mirror Discovery after it crossed over into our universe.

It was entertaining to see the USS Discovery quickly convert to the ISS Discovery. Seeing a replicator-like process for making Burnham’s uniform in a previous episode makes it more plausible that they could quickly make the needed uniforms (even if not entirely consistent with the original show). As on previous Mirror universe stories, the elevator was one of the preferred places for an assassination attempt (other than the bedroom), and we got the obligatory attempted murder scene. As was foreshadowed in Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum with Stamets calling Tilly “Captain,” Tilly (or Killy) is the Captain of the Mirror Discovery. I do like how this is truly a continuing, serialized series, with little events in one episode providing a payoff in future episodes. Having Lorca portray the Engineer with a Scottish accent was also an amusing homage to the original show.

While the recovered data provided far more information than was realistic, the one missing piece of information was the identity of the Emperor. As they made a point of this, it is very likely that this will be revealed in a future episode, and it will also provide a payoff to viewers. If this was fan fiction, I might guess that it was a very old Empress Sato. While that would be satisfying to fans who remember In A Mirror, Darkly, it would mean little to newer fans, so I doubt that this will be the case. My bet is that it will be Philippa Georgiou, especially after there was no sign of her on the Shenzhou. Burnham already had a fight to the death with the Mirror version of someone she knew from the Shenzhou, and I bet she will also have to confront the Mirror Georgiou. (A confrontation with Tyler/Voq is also very likely.)

While previous Mirror universe stories were one or two episodes, it appears that the entire second half of the season will be a longer Mirror story. As I quoted in an interview with the producers last week, Discovery is gradually moving towards showing the vision of the Federation we are accustomed to from the original series. Taking place in the Mirror universe does now allow Discovery to portray what is good about the Federation through contrast with the Empire, even if we did not see it at its greatest in the first half of the season.

The same interview mentioned second chances. Being in the Mirror universe has provided a second chance for Lorca, who appears to have wanted to go there with his future uncertain in our universe. Bringing the Discovery from our universe might also be part of a bigger plan if he is really the Mirror Lorca. Bernham might also be tempted to remain now that she is the Captain of her own ship in the Mirror universe, and faces a possible return to prison in our universe. Ultimately both will have big decisions about what is important to them. The xenophobia of the Mirror universe also resonates in our present with the presidency of Donald Trump, years after the idea was first shown on the original show. It is sad that we have not progressed more since the 1960’s.

TV Line interviewed the Discovery show runners about the episode:

TVLINE | The mirror universe is a huge part of Trek mythology, dating back to the original series. How early on in the writing process did you know you wanted to go there?
GRETCHEN J. BERG | I think pretty much from the beginning.

AARON HARBERTS | Yeah, the biggest thing, frankly, was when we were going to do it. Initially, plans had been hatched to go over there in Episode 5, and we realized as we were talking about it: The mirror universe only works when you can care about the characters enough in the prime universe, so you can uncover the discovery of who people are in the alternate universe. So we realized that the mirror universe really needed to play in the back half of the [season], that it really needed to anchor the last several episodes…

TVLINE | So the crew needs to find a way out of this mirror universe with the Terrans. Is that the overriding mission for the next few weeks? Does it run through the season finale?
HARBERTS
 | We will be in the mirror universe for a little while. Episode 10 is simply the introduction. We felt like we could tell quite a bit of story in this mirror universe — not only about the mirror universe, but about our characters. Things come out about our characters in the mirror universe that wouldn’t come out in the prime universe. So we really felt like it was a great crucible for storytelling.

TVLINE | Is it giving away too much to ask if we’ll see a mirror Georgiou?
BERG
 | I find your question very interesting, but that’s a “no comment.” [Laughs]

TVLINE | Making Tilly the captain was such an inspired stroke of storytelling. How much did Mary Wiseman enjoy that twist?
HARBERTS | [Laughs] The thing that was fun is, we always knew we were going to do it. The gift that we’ve been given from CBS All Access was to allow this to be so serialized. So Tilly says “I’m going to be a captain someday” the first time we meet her. So we knew: “Mary, guess what? In the mirror universe, you’re going to be a captain!” Mary is super-dry and super-sassy, so whenever she would cop a little ‘tude — and I mean that in the most playful of ways, because we have fun and just go at each other — it would just be like, “Yeah, that’s really mirror-universe Tilly. Save that for the mirror universe!” I think she had a ball. When she takes charge of that bridge, it’s just a testament to how great she is as an actor. She can go from comedic to downright scary to fighting both instincts. She’s just truly gifted.

TVLINE | We did witness Dr. Culber’s death as well, when Tyler’s alternate personality came out. What’s the fallout going to be from that when the crew returns to the ship? 
BERG | There are so many things that are set off or started in Episode 10… there are ramifications for every action. It is a huge thing. And it’s heartbreaking, and horrifying.

HARBERTS | One of the early bits of feedback about Discovery is that it’s very dark, and very bleak. And I don’t necessarily believe that that’s true, because we know where the show is going. But I do think that scenes of forgiveness and atonement and redemption are really important in Star Trek, and we’re going to have to take that journey. On our show, no one is ever truly a villain, and no one is ever truly a perfect person. And what’s beautiful about Shazad [Latif]’s performance is, you see just how shocked and horrified he is by his actions…

TVLINE | What else is coming up in the rest of this season? Is Tyler’s alternate personality kind of the ticking time bomb that could derail this entire mission?
BERG
 | It’s looming pretty large, and it’s a huge complication to what is going on, not only personally with Burnham and everybody else.

HARBERTS | If your psyche is hanging by a thread, maybe the last thing you want to do is go on an away mission to the Terran Empire. [Laughs] What you don’t need is more stress.

BERG | Where is the couch and afghan you can climb under? They don’t have one! I would say, also, as shocking as the death of Culber is that you just witnessed at the hands of Tyler, Culber and Stamets have been in a relationship that… sort of represents the epic love story of our series. And, you know, love overcomes all. I think you can count on that it won’t be the last we see Culber. You’ll see him again.

HARBERTS | This relationship between Stamets and Culber… this death is but the first chapter. The trope of “Bury Your Gays,” which is running rampant through our television landscape, that is not something that Star Trek has ever been interested in doing. I think we’ve shown by now that we’re not interested in tropes, and that we love our characters, and we love our actors. When you’re given the gift of Wilson Cruz and Anthony Rapp, and you’ve got several gay writers on staff, you don’t just throw that away. You will see Dr. Culber again. This is a love story that’s going to transcend death, and there is much more story to tell for those two. And the science that [the real-life mycologist] Paul Stamets has provided as a backdrop for our fictional Paul Stamets, and for our show… if the audience is concerned about what’s going to happen to Culber, dig deeper into the science of the mycelial network. There are so many clues in there.

This (as with last week’s episode) has me optimistic that we are in store for a much better season of The X-Files than the previous. While much of the story might not hold up if looked at too critically (which can be said of the original run of the show), it was very entertaining. It provided, as a revival should, both something of the past (Richard Langly of The Lone Gunmen) along with an updated twist. The idea of consciousness being uploaded after death is an idea which Steven Moffat has used several times, although this was handled much more like Black Mirror than Doctor Who.

The episode also played on modern paranoia and conspiracy theories, from the use of the Russians to this exchange:

Skinner: “The bureau is not in good standing to the White House these days.”

Mulder: ‘The FBI finally found out what it’s like to be looked upon a little spooky.”

While the alien threat was potentially eliminated last week, there is a new threat. We were warned that, “life on this earth, all human life, most animal life, is about to be crushed. Burnt to the ground.” They also had to enter something very close to a real life NSA facility.

Runaways concluded its first season last week, and was an excellent origin story setting up their situation. By the end of the first season, we have learned quit a bit about the characters and their situation. Nothing really got resolved in the finale, but fortunately Hulu has renewed the series for a second season. They also renewed Future Man. I have not seen this yet, but have heard good things about the series.

Hulu has turned into a major player in streaming with The Handmaid’s Tale, including with a Golden Globe win last week. It will be interesting to see what happens when it returns on April 25 now that they are beyond the book. Reportedly the second season will go beyond the events in Gilead and show the Colonies. The above trailer was recently released.

Syfy has released the first official trailer for Krypton, which premiers March 21.

SciFi Weekend: The X-Files Returns; Star Trek Discovery Starting Second Half Of Season; Jodie Whittaker On Doctor Who

The X-Files returned last week and, after so many good seasons, there was no question but to give it another chance despite a disappointing season two years ago. My Struggle III wound up retconning much of what occurred in part II (last season’s cliff hanger season finale). The events, including the plague, the breakdown of civilization, and the alien spaceship at the end, apparently are prophesies while Scully is actually in a coma, and none of it has happened yet (if ever). Normally I might object to getting out of a cliff hanger in such a manner, but it is probably better for the show that they reset like this. It just lowers my view of the tenth season a bit more, while giving me more hope for this season.

Overall it was a good episode, and I hope that they do include more of the mythology, as opposed to going to stand-alone monster of the week episodes until the season finale as they did last season. Besides the retcon of cliff hanger, they went back and revised more of what we thought about the show, spending a lot of time on events dealt with during the regular run of the series. This included a lot with the Cigarette Smoking Man (always a plus for an X-Files episode), and especially with his involvement with William’s birth. If he sees himself as William’s father, I guess this means that William is Mulder’s half-brother rather than son.

Other developments include finding that Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) is working quite closely with the Cigarette Smoking Man, and there are new characters involved in the big conspiracy. Jeffrey Spender is also more important, as long as the season involves the search for William. The entire end-game has also changed, with the aliens no longer wanting to colonize the earth as we have made it too hot. Apparently there is some good to come from global warming.

The episode also showed the moon landing as being faked, which I was disappointed in, finding this to be a bit too much tin-foil-hat even for The X-Files. Yes, part of X-Files is accepting a lot of alien conspiracy stuff as real for the fun of the series. I wouldn’t have minded if they did something like having aliens on the moon at the time of the landing. However X-Files is about believing that a lot of science fiction stuff is real, not denying space travel which has actually occurred.

Where ever they go this season, I do hope that they end with a satisfactory conclusion (even if leaving some things open), especially as Gillian Anderson says she will not return to The X-Files (or American Gods), and Chris Carter doesn’t plan to continue without her. Of course actors have been convinced to change their mind in the past about returning to a role.

Star Trek:Discovery returns tonight–but why couldn’t CBS stream it a little earlier so we could watch it before the Golden Globes start? Tonight’s episode, Despite Yourself, will be the one directed by Jonathan Frakes, and is rumored to involve the Mirror universe. The producers are teasing what we will see in the second half of the season, via AV Club:

The Discovery EPs talked about keeping the workplace safe for women and promoting greater representation on and off screen, which remained a part of the discussion even when reporters were green-lit to go off topic and ask about what viewers can expect from the second half of the show, which returns January 7.

Berg advised fans to “buckle up,” because the show is “introducing a huge new development.” “It’ll be fun for Trek fans,” Harberts chimed in, teasing a “nice nod to stuff from [The Original Series]. This back half—what happens tomorrow night firmly anchors the back half to the season. It’s definitely again a war story, as far as how it’ll play out, but our characters find themselves in a place where their identities are challenged. It’s an emotionally wrought back half. Very intense. The cast has done some amazing work.”

As far as what thematic arc we can expect from the Trek series that the EPs and network have regularly touted for its more serialized storytelling, Berg invoked the “discovery and self-discovery” themes that have been a part of Burnham’s story this season. “She had a big hole to climb out of emotionally, spiritually, and how she feels she fits in the world. [This second half] is about getting her back to a place we saw her in in the beginning.”

“Redemption’s a huge theme,” Harberts adds, which is something the show’s producers and writers are probably hoping for after the first half of season one was deemed not quite Trek enough by some viewers. “The other thing that’s a huge theme for us is taking the Federation from the darkness into the light. Everybody wants this optimistic version of Star Trek right out of the gate. And I feel that our show has a lot of hope in it from episode to episode, depending on storyline we’re tracking.” So if you’ve found the show somewhat grim (this particular writer hasn’t), stay tuned, because Harberts says “by season’s end, people will see the Federation they’ve come to know and love from TOS on.”

When The A.V. Club asked Berg and Harberts about Georgiou’s sudden departure, the EPs pointed to the upcoming episode. Berg calls the relationship between Georgiou and Burnham “such a core relationship for the entire spine. Our goal was always to keep Captain Georgiou alive on the show.” Cutting herself off to avoid revealing too much, Berg then says, “The joy is in the journey. I’d say, keep watching, because Georgiou is such a huge part of the heart who was Michael Burnham. If that’s something you’re invested in, keep watching because I think you hopefully will enjoy what we’re going to do.” “Once you watch episode 10, you’ll see the context that we’re playing in,” Harberts adds. “Another theme for the back half is second chances. As people are consuming the back half, keep that in mind.”

As for what we can expect from the back half of season one, the war story will continue, but there will be less Klingon and subtitles. “We still stand behind that decision,” Berg says, because it made sense for the story of the nativist Klingons. But Harberts also indicates there will be “a little less reading involved” going forward.

I previously speculated that we might see Captain Georgiou alive in the Mirror universe, or some other parallel universe. Perhaps we will find out if that is the case tonight.

Doctor Who Magazine has an interview with Jodie Whittaker which includes the above picture of her as she will be dressed on Doctor Who. Whittaker also discussed the significance of her new role on Doctor Who in an interview with Total Film, calling it “fucking brilliant.” A synopsis from Digital Spy:

In an interview with Total Film, Jodie acknowledges how the very act of her casting as The Doctor may already have opened up doors for other actresses.

“This is the defining moment of my life,” she tells the magazine. “I feel old enough for it. And I feel like I understand how important it is, and I’m so excited that the role models for young children, boys or girls… or teenagers, or adults, come in different forms.

“There’s nothing unattainable about me. I don’t look like I’ve been carved out of rock. I don’t sound like I’ve had the extraordinary glamour.”

The actress then explained: “For me, knowing what I thought were my limitations as a person and an actor, because this industry is about, ‘You sound like this, you look like this’… but I’m normal.

“And that was exciting to [Broadchurch co-star and former Doctor] David [Tennant] – it was a superhero he could play. And now it opens it a little wider, to women as well.

“It’s amazing to be a milestone, but how wonderful if it wasn’t, if it was just accepted, embraced. I’m not dissing the moment – it’s f**king brilliant – but hopefully when other people grow up, it’s not so much of a surprise.”

SciFi Weekend: Twice Upon A Time; Black Mirror Does Star Trek (And More) With USS Callister; Jonathan Frakes on Star Trek Discovery and The Orville; Top New Genre Shows Of 2017

Twice Upon A Time was the final episode of Doctor Who for both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat. The episode has far more references to previous episodes than I’d attempt to list and makes it clear that it is part of a tradition starting long before either Capaldi or Moffat were involved. It goes back to the first Doctor, starting with black and white footage and the caption “709 episodes ago,” ultimately leading to the words “to be continued.”

We knew it would be continued although both the first and the twelfth Doctor threatened  not to regenerate. Of course we knew that the first had to regenerate as we have seen subsequent Doctors. It was also no surprise that Twelve ultimately decided that, “One more lifetime won’t kill anyone…except me.” Of course each Doctor will give into yet one more lifetime.

The episode differed from a typical episode in that we learned that the Testimony was not really doing anything menacing. (“I don’t know what to do when it isn’t an evil plan.”) Rather than having the universe in danger this was a smaller scale story, only giving enough plot so that we didn’t have the two Doctors, along with the Captain and Bill’s memories, do nothing but talk to each other. This also enabled Moffat to return to his earliest stories. The planet Villengard was from his first Doctor Who story, The Doctor Dances, and Rusty the good Dalek returned from Into The Dalek. The idea of memories living on after death has been seen repeatedly in Moffat’s stories in some form or another.

The year of #MeToo turned out to be the perfect year for Doctor Who to explore sexism, contrasting the first Doctor’s 1960’s attitudes with the present. When the twelfth Doctor said, “You can’t say things like that,” he was not only lecturing someone from the 1960’s, but was also pointing out what he has learned over time. It was an even bigger shock for the first Doctor when he and the Captain mentioned that they have had “some experience of the fairer sex” and Bill responded that she has too. Ultimately the glass ceiling in the TARDIS was broken (along with the entire TARDIS blowing up).

Besides the appearances by David Bradley as William Hartnell’s first Doctor (after having played Hartnell in the An Adventure in Space And Time), and the return of some form of Bill, there were brief cameos by Clara Oswald and Nardole, with the Doctor regaining his memory of Clara. The two characters out of World War I were by Mark Gatiss and Toby Whitehouse, both writers with Doctor Who experience. The Captain also turned out to have yet another role in Doctor Who history as he was ultimately identified as Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart–the grandfather of General Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart,  the Brigadier. (His exact relationship was not mentioned in the episode but SciFi Wire reports that Gatiss referred to his character as the Brigadier’s grandfather in a press Q&A).

Being a time travel story, there was the obvious slip (“Spoilers”) of the Doctor referring to the “War To End All Wars” as “World War I.”  “What do you mean ‘one’?” Plus being a Christmas episode led to the perfect resolution of the Captain’s story with the Doctor returning him a few hours later so that instead of being shot he participated in the Christmas Armistice of 1914

Of course we all knew where this was going as Peter Capaldi gave his final speech on the TARDIS, with advice for his next self:

Oh there it is. Silly old universe. The more I save it, the more it needs saving. It’s a treadmill. Yes, Yes I know they’ll get it all wrong without me. Well I suppose one more lifetime won’t kill anyone. Well, except me. You wait a moment, Doctor. Let’s get it right. I’ve got a few things to say to you. Basic stuff first. Never be cruel, never be cowardly, and never ever ever eat pears. Remember, hate is always foolish and love is always wise. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind. Oh, and you mustn’t tell anyone your name — no-one would understand it anyway. Except children, children can hear it, sometimes if their hearts are in the right place, and the stars are, too, children can hear your name — but nobody else, nobody else, ever. Love hard, run fast, be kind. Doctor, I let you go.

Screen Rant provided an explanation as to where the various portions of this speech came from.  Den of Geek also explained:

The twelfth Doctor’s final speech, which was worked on by both Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi, contains several elements from dialogue past. “Never be cruel, never be cowardly” is a doff of the cap both to The Day Of The Doctor and to 70s script editor Terrance Dicks, who would often cite the Doctor’s lack of these two traits as one of his greatest virtues. “Never eat pears” is a reference to Paul Cornell’s novel Human Nature, in which the seventh Doctor expressed a dislike for pears before taking on human form. A similar line was cut from the 2007 tenth Doctor adaptation with the same name. In Hell Bent the Doctor told Clara never to eat pears, as “they’re too squishy and they always make your chin wet”.

“Be kind” is what the Doctor begged of the Master and Missy back in The Doctor Falls, but it was also said by the tenth Doctor to the Vashta Nerada in Forest Of The Dead. “Don’t tell anyone your name” likely refers to the kerfuffle caused by the Doctor’s name in Matt Smith’s final year, when it was revealed that saying his name on Trenzalore would have reignited the Time War. However, the Doctor did seemingly tell River Song his real name on the occasion of their ‘nuptials’ in 2011’s The Wedding Of River Song – but then, as we’ve been told, ‘the Doctor lies’… The part about the stars and one’s heart being in the right place appears to be the invention of Peter Capaldi, who expressed a similar sentiment at a special screening earlier this year.

Then there was the regeneration energy, the Doctor’s ring fell off, and we had a new Doctor. Just as we first saw Peter Capaldi’s forehead and eyes, this is what we first saw of Jody Whittaker. Apparently us Americans will have to learn to understand Jody Whittaker’s Yorkshire accent. All we heard from her so far was, “Oh brilliant.” Then there was the ultimate cliff hanger as the TARDIS exploded and the thirteenth Doctor was falling towards the earth. Presumably this will enable her to have her own look for the TARDIS, or perhaps she will be without it for a while.

More on Twice Upon A Time, and the question of the Doctor’s real name, here.

Just as Doctor Who incorporated the Doctor from the 1960’s, Black Mirror began its fourth season with an homage to the other classic science fiction show of the 1960’s, Star Trek, with USS Callister. It first appeared as an over-the-top parody of a Star Trek episode, culminating with Captain Kirk kissing all the girls. It turned out to be something completely different. Major spoilers ahead.

While Star Trek type science fiction played a key role in the story, the story was more about artificial reality and about abuse of power. Jesse Plemons played the co-head of a tech firm who did not get much respect on the job, and took it out on sentient digital clones of others in the office. Most had accepted their roles and inability to fight back until a new employee played by Cristin Milioti was brought aboard. The final straw was finding that she had been robbed of her sexuality, and her vagina. She led a successful rebellion, which included blackmailing her real self into helping with revealing pictures hidden online. It all worked out well in the end with the digital clones becoming free of Jesse Plemons and free to explore the digital universe, now with a modern JJ Abrams Star Trek look (including lens flare). Perhaps if Plemons wasn’t so concerned with exercising power and abusing others he could have had far greater adventures in his digital world.

Den of Geek interviewed Charlie Brooker and Anabel Jones about the episode:

This is a brilliant ‘have your cake and eat it’ episode, in that you start with the spoof of the ship navigating the asteroid belt, then by the end I’m watching like this [mimes learning forward, tense] thinking ‘are they going to get through the asteroid belt?!’ How did the layers of that story evolve?

Charlie Brooker: We were on the set of Playtest from the previous season and we were saying ‘we haven’t done a space episode. What’s a Black Mirror space episode?’ and quite quickly we went ‘well, it couldn’t really be in space, it would have to be in a simulation’, then quite quickly again it was like ‘what if there are people who are copied in and they’re trapped in there and it’s like a prison?’

Like White Christmas?

CB: Yeah! And then the captain is the baddie, so it’s like Playtime Fontayne from Viz, who’s a grown man who makes everyone play games like a child. It’s like a nightmare, he’s a tyrant, he’s mad! So then we started calling it Toy Story or Adult Toy Story, we kept calling it…

Annabel Jones: …which then sounded wrong! [laughs]

CB: Relatively quickly those thoughts came together. Then the notion of it being a sort of vintage show that he was obsessed by kind of came in slightly later because we thought, what’s even more unexpected? A), because the world he has created is a throwback and a simplistic interpretation of shows like that. It’s his interpretation of that show, rather than what that show would have actually been, it’s his simplistic fable version of it and it’s quite reductive and out of date. We’re not saying that shows of that nature are reductive and out of date, because they were actually very progressive at the time. His warped version of it.

Partly it also came about because we wanted to have an opening where you go ‘what the fuck is this?’…

He starts as the underdog and I thought I was going to like him, he seemed like my kind of socially awkward guy. Then you see him behaving like a cruel tyrant, ignoring the irony of the speech he gives about the utopian ideals of Space Fleet. He’s like ‘actually, it’s about ethics in space exploration!’ Was that intended as a comment on online fandom and that sort of character?

CB: Not really. It’s interesting because that is a thing that a couple of people have said. That worries me slightly because I don’t want it to be seen that we’re attacking fans of classic sci-fi, that speech is more meant to be a bit of a joke really. He delivers this speech, which presumably he has lifted from an episode of Space Fleet, about the noble ideals of this progressive UN-in-space, and then he turns around and goes “…and you arseholes are fucking it all up!” It’s meant to illustrate the gulf between his fantasy heroics—he wants to be the hero in this make-believe world—and the stupidity and tyranny of what he’s actually doing…

Speaking of influences, there are echoes of that Twilight Zone great episode with Anthony Fremont, the little kid who controls his town and turns people into Jack-in-a-box. Was that an inspiration or just somewhere in the back of your head?

CB: I think at some point I thought ‘hang on, it’s not a million miles away’ because he’s a tyrant, that kid is a dictator that everybody has to be extremely mindful of, that lives in a fantasy world so probably unconsciously there was an element of that. Certainly you could draw a parallel there.

Are you a Star Trek fan? What’s your relationship with that franchise?

CB: I was probably more of a Doctor Who fan as a kid, or Twilight Zone or Tales Of The Unexpected but Star Trek was kind of an anthology show as well in a way. I never really watched the 90s Star Trek series. Will Bridges, who co-wrote the episode, is a big, big, big Star Trek fan, so he was delighted at the chance to do all that. He knew a lot of the lingo.

The episode has a lot of fun with early Star Trek…

CB: Tropes, yes. A lot of that came from Will, he was like ‘Oh, I know! This and that can happen’, so he was having a lot of fun in that respect. I watched The Original Series when I was a kid and would find it terrifying a lot of the time. I think we wanted it to feel, generally, with classic sci-fi, we wanted it to feel more like an homage than an attack.

An affectionate ribbing?

CB: Yeah. There’s a bit of piss-taking going on but really it’s aimed at Daly.

So incurring the wrath of Star Trek fans isn’t something you’re worried about?

CB: Well it’s worrying, because you don’t want to upset people unnecessarily. We’re not saying that is a rubbish show, or it’s a throwback, because again, it was wildly ahead of its time. He says at one point that it was visionary, and that’s true!

Of course this season we have had two different interpretations of Star Trek with new the new shows, Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. Jonathan Frakes, who has past experience on Star Trek: The Next Generation, has directed episodes of both and discussed this with IndieWire:

Mimicking a variety of styles is something that the veteran director is quite used to doing. In just the last year, Jonathan Frakes directed five episodes of television, including both “The Orville” and “Star Trek: Discovery,” perhaps serving as the ultimate bridge between the two fall TV homages to the “Star Trek” franchise. And according to Frakes, there’s room for both.

“Stylistically, your responsibility as an episodic television director [is] when you do a show like ‘The Orville,’ you want that show to look like ‘Next Generation,’” he said. “And when you go to Canada to do ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ they want that show to have the feeling, and look, and vibe of the J.J. [Abrams]-era ‘Star Trek.’ Much more cinematic, a lot of crane work, and a lot of movement, a lot of dutch angles. On ‘Next Generation,’ the traditional framing, and the things we became accustomed to as fans of the show, we see in [‘The Orville’] because that’s the look.”

When it came to “The Orville,” Frakes said that “I was afraid that it was going to be like ‘Family Guy,’ and it’s not really, but it’s also not really as serious as ‘Next Generation.’ I think Seth [MacFarlane], and Brannon [Braga], and whoever else is involved in all this, they found a tone that clicks with this audience, either the millennial audience or the old school audience. Everyone is very pleasantly surprised at how well the show has been received. I’m happy to see the homage, and I’m happy to see success for whoever wants to steal good ideas.”

Added Frakes, “It was a very conscious, and I think quite successful, homage. ‘Orville’s’ coming back for a second season, so is ‘Discovery.’ There’s room, obviously, in the fans’ hearts for both types of ‘Star Trek.’”

Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville are just two of the great science fiction shows to premiere in the past year. See SciFi Weekend’s ranking of the Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017. (I’m linking to it again today as those who follow links to SciFi Weekend through Facebook groups did not get the link last week as I was back in Facebook Jail last Sunday, with Facebook increasingly interfering with posting links to groups).